Sustainability @ NYU: BioDesign

Photo of microbial

Project and blog post by Annick Saralegui

The linear “take, make, dispose” material and energy flow model primarily relies on energy and water intensive mechanized equipment and technologies. The technologies are designed to eliminate any uncertainties and perform on efficiency. However, as extractive technologies become more efficient in eliminating any variables that may cause quality variation or decreased yields, they also eliminate important living biological agents – our so called enemies – microbes.

There is a disconnect between our microbial world and our built environment. The anthropocentric pursuit for sterility and the implications of the complete elimination of bacteria and fungi has a direct correlation to biodiversity loss, land and water degradation, and air pollution. Yet bacteria and fungus’s potential in fueling a bio-revolution, and aligning with the circular economy agendas is only just beginning to be investigated. Strategies to advance the circular economy through a microbial lens have yet been fully realized. To address this shortcoming, my projects discuss the value of microorganisms in achieving alternative regenerative biofutures and advancing the circular economy, starting with applications of bacteria pigments in the toxic textile dye industry.

As a designer, I knew that my role was to creatively communicate the powers of microbes through visual narrative and found that bacterial pigmentation could act as a platform to garner excitement, curiosity, and interest in regenerative design.

Annick Saralegui is a Gallatin Senior studying the intersection of design, microbiology, and sustainability through her concentration “Environmental Design for the Regenerative Economy.” In her most recent endeavor, she founded a climate science, culture, biology and design magazine known as “Symbiont.”

Instagram: annicksara
Symbiont Magazine Website: 
Symbiont Magazine Instagram @symbiont.mag 

This blog post and video are a part of Design Week 2021: Designing Waste Out, presented by Design Lab @ NYU MakerSpace. Design Week is an annual week of events focused on a critical aspect of design. The theme this year is around sustainability and ways that we can all make a larger impact when we decide to take action and do something. The week is packed with talks, workshops, and a panel, and highlights projects like this one on sustainability happening at NYU. Learn more about Design Week here.