ROOTED: Grounded in Community
Instructors: Paul Sheriff, Scott Laserow
A meal kit that might just turn your thumbs green. Rooted is a subscription service that allows customers to create delicious vegetarian meals and start a personal vegetable garden right from their own homes. This concept was a collaborative effort. Two other students, Maddison Stabinger and Samantha Petty, and I were tasked with creating a take-out service while keeping the climate of the pandemic at the time in mind. After finalizing our concept, we went on to design our own separate projects.
While creating this project we kept the three key problems above in mind.
Firstly, with people stuck at home social distancing this year, the feeling of loneliness and isolation has gone up. Our goal is to give our customers a new form of entertainment that would help not only give our customers something to do together but also allow them to hone a new skill in the process.
Secondly, food waste has always been an issue in the United States but due to the pandemic, the issue has been exacerbated. At the beginning of the semester, we found out that 40% of food goes to waste every year in America. A big component of this is overestimating the ingredients needed for cooking when grocery shopping. It’s hard to know exactly how much food will be enough for the week and most people would rather have too much than too little. Another issue is farmers having to throw out the excess produce they have each month because with our current situation it’s more costly to donate it than throw it away. It doesn’t help that there’s been less demand from restaurants due to many of them having to temporarily close. Since this issue only seems to be increasing we wanted to find a way to use these leftover vegetables from local farmers so that they don’t go to waste
The last problem we wanted to address was sustainability. Plastic and styrofoam containers create waste that we can’t get rid of even when ‘recycled.’ Many people have the right intentions when it comes to recycling, but in reality, only 12% of all plastic has been incinerated leaving the rest in landfills and the ocean. In order to reduce our carbon footprint, we searched to find a packaging solution that focused on reducing and reusing rather than recycling.
What is Rooted?
Rooted combines cooking and gardening to create a relaxing yet entertaining at-home experience. It is a customizable subscription service where the customer gets a wooden box filled with fresh ingredients and produce so that the buyer can make vegetarian meals in their own home.
The customer can choose how often they would like to receive a veggie kit whether it be weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. The buyer has 12 to 15 vegetarian meals to choose from on our website as well as 2–3 infused drink options. Each box comes with exact amounts of ingredients to make the cooking process less stressful. In addition, the box comes with an optional gardening component that includes a starter kit which teaches customers how to grow their own produce.
Solution for boredom: Our subscription box allows people who are quarantining together to spend some time away from their screens, away from watching the news, and instead be with one another. Cooking itself can be therapeutic and a stress reliever but it also allows people to come together and have a source of entertainment that’s not the TV or their computers. For people who are quarantining alone, cooking is a great activity to not only take up time when days are feeling repetitive but also be an act of self-care with people feeling isolated now more than ever. Another aspect of the Rooted box is the option to include a gardening kit so you can start a vegetable garden of your own. This can be done with friends and family or as an activity just on your own. Gardening is similar to cooking by being an outlet for any stress or anxieties in your life which seems to be a common theme this year.
Solution for food waste: Rooted partners with local farms to get fresh produce for our cooking crates. Here’s how it works: Since Covid began, restaurants everywhere have had to close or slow down business. Many of them purchased their vegetables in bulk from farms in PA, but due to our current climate, the demand for produce has drastically dropped leaving farmers with an overflow. That’s where we come in. Rooted takes this overflow of produce and creates recipes based on what’s in season, and sends it to the front doors of our customers. This guarantees our customers get fresh locally sourced products while helping farms get rid of the extra produce that would have otherwise gone to waste. Even further, we measure out the exact amount of ingredients that are required per recipe to make it as easy as possible for our customers. This way WE cut back on food waste and YOU aren’t left with half an onion sitting in your fridge for weeks.
Solution for plastic waste: When realizing how much plastic waste is produced during the lifecycle of an average takeout meal, we wanted to come up with a more sustainable solution to exporting our product. Instead of using plastic containers, we decided to choose a wooden crate as our carrying vessel that is either reused by Rooted or further used by the consumer. The wooden crate can either be picked up after the consumer is finished unloading their ingredients, or it can be used as a planter either in their home or a nearby community garden. In addition to the overall box, we are using glass jars for ingredients that will also be reused by the company.
When coming up with my branding, I knew that it was important for the subscription service to have a rustic farmhouse feel. However, I still wanted everything to look modern and bright to keep up with current trends. With this in mind, I went with a vibrant color pallet but kept the shades more natural and muted. When it came to textures, I wanted to incorporate wood into the design because it would be common throughout our deliverables and a theme of growth and vegetation. Initially, when coming up with logo designs, I was playing with the imagery of a fork and a carrot making an X, but after more consideration decided to go in a different direction.
I took inspiration from Louise Fili and with a similar format to her food packaging and logos. I used etchings of different vegetables that I found online to create a mock still life in the center of my logo. Although I was happy with the black and white logo, I couldn’t get it to work once I started incorporating color. I went back and forth for a while but eventually knew that I needed to develop my own illustration. I decided on a tomato plant since it represents food and gardening and conveys the idea of fresh vegetables right from the vine. Using the same format, I created the final logo that’s shown above.