Linear vs Circular
The ‘linear’ approach of make, use, dispose has lost its appeal and with global waste figures raising at scale, make way for a much more economical model. Enter The Circular Economy.
The concept of a circular economy is not a new one, but as a regenerative system it can add many societal benefits that can ultimately enhance the quality of life of citizens, local communities and the environment. And as our design ambitions grow, current advances in technology have made it possible for us to design products and services that make for a smoother transition to a circular economy. However, technology alone cannot achieve this — so what role do humans and creativity play in the world achieving a true circular economy?
Pioneers of The Circular Economy
A more collaborative approach towards the possibilities of reaching a circular economy was explored in a partnership between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and IDEO and the recently created, The Circular Design Guide. Co-created with 400+ contributors across the likes of Unilever, Hult International Business School and Nike, The Circular Design Guide was created to help innovators design and create effective, creative solutions aimed at helping humans achieve a circular economy.
As humans, the shift to a circular economy requires innovative business models that either replace existing models or create new opportunities. The good news is that over time a number of solutions have been identified. The ‘Cradle to Cradle’ concept pioneered by chemist, Michael Braungar and architect, Bill McDonough focuses on design for effectiveness, positive impact and efficiency by reducing negative commercial impacts. Architect Walter Stahel’s ‘Closed Loop’ approach has four main goals that are centred around product-life extension, long-life goods, reconditioning activities, and waste prevention, and Janine Benyus’ ‘Biomimicry’ discipline leverages the study of nature to solve current human challenges.
Models of effectiveness
As more and more innovators, entrepreneurs and global corporations collaborate to tackle some of societies key global issues, a sustainable, yet profitable circular economy business model will inspire others to join the party. So who are some of the early adopters paving the way?
A favourite amongst most, Ikea are once again putting its values at the heart of its business. The recently launched Lagom collection provides its customers with inspiration for living a more sustainable lifestyle at no extra cost, with tips for consumers wanting to up-cycle existing, pre-owned products. Another company vocalising its commitment to a circular economy is Levi Strauss. Committed to establishing a closed-loop infrastructure by 2020, the brand offers in-store recycling services, launched its Water<Less initiative and pledged the use of recycled & recyclable materials in its clothing. Finally, TerraCycle, an innovative recycling brand renowned for recycling hard-to-recycle waste are on a mission to create a 100% wasteless future.
Now, through a change in perspective can humans re-design the way our economy works, designing products and creating services that can be ‘made to be made again’? It’s up to us to make this happen as humans and the holders of creativity.