Build habits to lead a sustainable lifestyle

Alumni in Action

Olivia Pedersen completed her MA in Sustainable Design program in Fall 2019 and is now leveraging her thesis work to launch a new business. We caught up with Olivia recently to learn more about what she’s up to.


What have you been doing since you completed the MA in Sustainable Design program?

It has been an exciting journey since graduation. Starting January 2020, I decided to go all in on my venture Sustaio, the sustainable lifestyle app that was the brainchild of my thesis research project.

Over the course of this year I have assembled a founding team and we are in the process of building our MVP now! Additionally we are working hard on building an impactful brand and a sustainable business model, figuring out how we can make Sustaio a business as UNusual entity making sure we build a new type of SaaS company that accounts for its ecological, carbon, social, and DIGITAL footprints.

Our top priorities for 2020 are ramping up awareness for Sustaio and to run a crowdfunding campaign that will give us the funds we need to launch the Sustaio app in winter 2020. The crowdfunding camping will run Sept 1 – Oct 26th. 

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What has been your proudest moment in sustainability?

I have never been more passionate about my life’s work. I am proud to be building a company and product that will empower people to live their best lives. 


What was your personal path to sustainability?

I was lucky to have been raised in progressive, environmentally-focused places that exposed me to the sustainability movement at a very young age. It was always a focus of life to be conscious of my personal impacts and how my actions affect others. Reading The Walmart Effect back in 2010 sparked this ten-year journey of mine to figure out how my life’s work could contribute to sustainability. After working as a graphic designer for several years, I realized I wanted to use my design training as a means to build something that would contribute to sustainable futures, Sustaio is that something that I have created to make a positive difference in the world.


If you could travel back in time what would you tell your pre-MASD program self?

Use templates for your presentations so you can focus on the sustainability course work.


What has been your biggest “aha” moment in sustainability or sustainable design?

In sustainability, it has been the realization of what a digital footprint is. 


If you had a magic wand and could completely solve one sustainability problem, what would it be?

Wow, that is a tough question, especially since I am of the opinion that everything— the climate crisis, social disparities, pollution, lack of resources— is all interconnected being counterparts to each other. You can’t entirely fix one problem without addressing the other. That’s why “sustainability” is such a megalith of an issue, it’s so multi-faceted.


Thank you for sharing, Olivia!


Denise DeLuca / Director

Denise DeLuca is the Director of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program. She was co-founder of BCI: Biomimicry Creative for Innovation, a network of creative professional change agents driving ecological thinking for radical transformation. Denise is author of the book Re-Aligning with Nature: Ecological Thinking for Radical Transformation, which was illustrated by MASD alum Stephanie Koehler. She also teaches with the Amani Institute.

Denise’s previous roles include Education Director for the International Living Future Institute, Project Manager for Swedish Biomimetics 3000, and Outreach Director for The Biomimicry Institute. Denise is a licensed civil engineer (PE) and holds a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering with a focus on modeling landscape-scale surface and groundwater interactions.  In addition, Denise is a Biomimicry Fellow and a member of the Advisory Council of The Biomimicry InstituteBoard Member of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP), on the editorial board of the Journal of Bionic Engineering, and an Expert with Katerva. Denise is based in Oregon.

contact:  [email protected]