CINCINNATI — A college student took a school project seriously when asked to design something with sustainability in mind. 

What You Need To Know

  • Caroline Bussick used a school project on sustainability as a way to learn more about making products made of entirely re-used materials

  • The UC senior used food waste like coffee grounds and avocado pits to dye fabric

  • Bussick then partnered with coffee shop Mom n 'Em to use their food scraps to design a canvas bag for the store

  • Now, Bussick said the project solidified that she wants to work in sustainability in some way after graduation in May

Caroline Bussick likes designing and making products. So much so, that she’s using a unique process to make old products into new ones.

Bussick was tasked with designing something with sustainability in mind for a school project. She took it to a whole new level.

Bussick sewed the entire canvas bag. (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

“I really ran with the idea of turning waste into worth and seeing how we can utilize waste streams to create more products and extend the valuable lifestream," Bussick said.

The University of Cincinnati senior used food waste to dye materials, screen print, and even found recycled portions of fabric to complete her project.

Bussick used soy milk powder to screen print. (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

“All of these colors were made from avocado pits, onion skins, coffee grounds and they were all secondhand waste from Mom n ‘Em’s and my own kitchen," she said.

Bussick partnered with local coffee shop Mom n ‘Em, using their waste such as coffee grounds and avocado pits. She decided to partner with a restaurant because of the amount of waste they tend to have, and it ended up being the perfect partnership.

Mom n 'Em prides themselves on being a low waste restaurant space.(Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

“The way that they manage their waste is really ideal for a situation like this because they are already sorting it into what can be composted and what can not be," she said.

Bussick approached co-owner Austin Ferrari about the idea.

Austin Ferrari (left) shows Bussick the food compost bin at Mom n 'Em. (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

“I said, 'wow, you know, someone wants to pick through the compost and make some colorful dye,'" Ferrari said. "But I really thought it was fun, like an adventure, something new, a new outlet, something to be discovered and see what can come out of this waste.”

But the end result was worth the picking through trash.

“It's fun to see it in its fruition, especially in the environment it was designed for," she said of the finished product.

Now, Bussick said this bag has been a wake-up call for what she wants to do in the future and what others can do to be more sustainable.

“There can be a lot we can do as designers and product developers in general to keep waste out of landfill or out of compost and re-thinking our waste streams," she said.