We are moving from a linear economy to a circular economy.
In our linear economy, we take, make, use, and dispose of products regularly. In a circular one, we’ll refurbish, remanufacture, reuse, and recycle products to reduce waste and create an economy that thrives on the ecological value these products create. This circular future will reinvent design as we know it.
“Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned.”
– The Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Circular design, a key component of this new economy, requires much more effort than simply bending a straight line into a circle. Circular design mandates re-thinking and re-designing per the premise that we have a limited supply of natural resources. Therefore, the challenge is to design items to be used continuously or in different ways, prompting a cycle of reuse.
The circular design mimics nature. In nature, things grow, die, and return to the soil before the process starts over from the beginning. There is no beginning, middle, and end in nature. Everything in nature is used and reused again until it is no longer useful to its environment. When this happens, the cycle repeats. There is no waste and resources are generously shared among nature.
The goal for circular designers thus becomes to design and create products that are zero waste, effectively removing any need to recycle. Imagine design with not only the intention of being aesthetically pleasing but also to be beneficial to its environment. Furniture and decor intentionally crafted with the purpose of reuse in mind. Designers thinking outside the box, sourcing the highest-quality materials to ensure their products live well into the future. Imagine designing multi-use products.
Finally, an interesting consequence of circular design is the lessened importance of ownership. Renting, leasing and sharing turns consumers into users in a circular economy. Uber and Lyft are successfully employing this model now. Why buy a car when you can just call for a ride? Ridesharing is a cheaper solution, and you’re saving the environment! If design products can be produced using sustainable materials, the demand for them will rise as naturally designers and businesses promote sustainability, driving consumer interest. Who wouldn’t want a functional piece of furniture designed and built with changing designs and decor trends in mind?
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a charity dedicated to and globally known for advancing circularity in design, is calling for 20 million designers to adopt circular design in their work. They’re promoting concept awareness to an additional 60 million designers (including you!) and encouraging them to adopt circularity as part of The Circular Design Programme. The charity’s goal is for the circular economy to be the new normal by 2025.
True to their mission, this charity has impacted big names in business and countries progressing toward sustainability, including IKEA and the Netherlands. IKEA is well-known in the design circuit, and with a brand value of more than 18-billion dollars, their dedication to circular design is one that will impact every product and design they release. This giant retailer plans to be a circular business by 2030.
The Netherlands’ is working toward meeting their sustainable development goals over the next few years. Aside from making greater efforts to increase overall wellness and prosperity in the region, they’re working toward making the entire national economy circular by 2050. Imagine your designs redefining an entire nation.
“A circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits.”
– The Ellen MacArthur Foundation
With the idea of a circular economy in your head, what are your thoughts? Is being part of a future that recognizers designers committed to creating a positive impact something you’d like to be part of? For all the challenges you’ll face as you learn to think outside the box, hone your creative skills, and develop new products of the future, you’ll receive so much more in return. By joining this challenge, you’re not just becoming part of a design trend, you’re making an impact on the world around you. So, tell me. Are you up for the challenge?