Parsons Healthy Materials Lab

Changing minds and influencing actions


No one thinks their home might be toxic. The Healthy Materials Lab is on a mission to change that.

Bringing a hidden issue to light.

Most homes are built with materials laden with toxics, causing serious health side effects in their residents. The first step to changing consumer and industry behavior is informing (the right) people about the problem.

Strengths-based strategies work.

The Healthy Materials Lab is powered by an all-star team of professionals including Parsons faculty and students, foundations, and business professionals with visionary ideas about the future of healthy building, particularly in affordable housing. To turn this relatively unknown cause into public knowledge and concrete action, Big Duck devised a three-audience strategy that leveraged their strongest relationships and assets.

Key influencers can make the biggest change

Big Duck recommended prioritizing two (b2b) audiences that shape tomorrow’s construction, manufacturing, and design businesses: big box consumer stores and design/build professionals. To start moving the needle with consumers too, we identified a segment called “Millennial Marthas,” who pursue home decor, crafting, and nesting interests—and are often social influencers.

The comfort of home is not what you think.

Big Duck created a simple and powerful concept to tell their story: Home is where the (harm) is. By using a common refrain of safety and comfort to highlight a hazard, the Healthy Materials Lab engaged professionals and consumers about the hidden dangers in toxic building materials. HML’s student designers and photographers took our mockups and made them their own—shooting photos of idyllic home environments and typesetting the tagline in the New School’s branded typeface.

The communications tools to take it away

We crafted a pragmatic campaign plan for the Healthy Materials Lab’s small team to make the most of their limited time-frame and budget and built their capacity along the way. We mocked up digital ad templates, created a photography guide, and trained their undergraduate designers to ensure HML would be equipped to develop their own materials in-house quickly and consistently. Students and faculty created new applications for this campaign flexibly, adapting it to any audience or context with ease. Big Duck and Familiar Studio partnered to express the campaign through an educational and dynamic website ( Finally, a daylong digital training and hack-a-thon helped them build their skills as communicators, with a particular focus on social media and email best practices.

Benchmarks are key

We recommended benchmarking public perceptions before and after implementing the campaign to ensure the Healthy Materials Lab could track their success in changing the hearts and minds of consumers.


Big Duck crafted a strategy and plan that we’re uniquely qualified to implement. It leverages the great creative resources we have at Parsons and our deep network of resources and professionals. At the same time, it’s simple and easy for us to adapt as the work unfolds.

— Alison Mears, Director, Healthy Materials Lab

As a result

The Healthy Materials Lab has been educating professionals and consumers about toxics in the home, providing resources for healthy alternatives, and mapping actionable steps for both professionals and consumers to take in the healthy materials movement.


Related Content

Are you ready to change minds and inspire action? Let’s talk.