When we were briefed by Temasek Shophouse on their inaugural exhibition, we were told to work around the topic of waste and sustainability. We knew that this subject could border on being preachy if not handled with a light touch, leading us to come up with an exhibition that took a totally unexpected form.
Presenting: The [Not-So] Convenience Store. Recognising that the culture of convenience — think single-use packaging and disposables — is a big contributor to waste, we thought: what better way to highlight this than to appropriate and subvert the very embodiment of convenience itself?
While looking like a typical convenience store, our store was instead stocked with ‘inconvenient’ but sustainable alternatives to everyday products, surprising a jaded audience with its cheeky twist.
On the shelves were things like straws and menstrual products you have to wash instead of throw away. Reusable drink bottles filled the fridge while the freezer was turned into a recycling bin. On every product, the price tag displayed the true price of convenience — as paid by the Earth.
By taking the form of a store, the exhibition not only talked the talk but showed visitors how to walk the walk, stocked with practical examples on ways to live more sustainably.
Visitors were also invited to actively play a part by recycling their e-waste at our converted freezer.
In place of regular price tags, our tags showed two prices: the Price of Convenience and the Price of [Not-So] Convenience.
The former is the price the Earth pays for our wasteful habits, featuring bite-sized information about the relevant environmental problem. The latter is the price the visitor pays for taking up the more sustainable alternative.
Simulating the many types of point-of-purchase displays in a real convenience store, ours carry eco messages instead. We even spoofed the usual sales call-outs with messages like “Must Not Buy” and “Buy Once Get 1000 Uses Free”.
In-store communications continue to gently nudge visitors towards a more sustainable lifestyle for the sake of the Earth. Inviting a double take, our branding posters subvert standard customer service mottos for a playful twist.
More than an exhibition, The [Not-So] Convenience Store was a project designed to involve the community too. In line with our zero waste ethos, we worked with like-minded vendors who provided the products for the store display on a loan basis, and who helped support our movement online through their own social channels. Sustainability champions and influencers were also roped in as “Employees of the Month”, serving as examples for others to follow.
The novel form of the exhibition caught the attention of Singapore news and community websites, including top-ranked sites such as CNA, Today and Mothership. Other than the media, there was also healthy chatter on Facebook and Instagram, further boosted by the Instagram Stickers we created to help spark conversations online.
Testament to its impact and continued relevance, the sophomore edition of The [Not-So] Convenience Store was commissioned by the DesignSingapore Council in 2021, opening at the National Design Centre two years after the inaugural edition.