June 19, 2022

We Must All Adopt Circular Design

The concept of circular design is not a farfetched idea with no fundamental basis. Several companies are taking the lead in adopting practices that eliminate the waste of the often default approach of linear design.
The Swiss Innovator

A name synonymous with Swiss innovation that we have reviewed previously is Albin Kälin.  He is the CEO of the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency  (EPEA) in Switzerland.  His pioneering work in ecological and sustainable manufacturing began as the president of a textile mill.  His work focuses on the Cradle to Cradle® concept in sustainable development.

"We are losing resources, their quality and most of them are even toxic.  What we need is Cradle to Cradle enabling a positive perspective for future generations and the environment." - Albin Kälin
The Work of EPEA

Kälin's organization, EPEA, is focused on helping business partners and customers to develop a circular economy through C2C design.  EPEA  uses its 30 years of experience to create and innovate buildings for entire urban areas and processes and products.  They provide services for the Cradle to Cradle design of:

• Buildings

• Business transformation

• Cities & infrastructure

• Industry products

The main objective of this work is to develop an outcome that is "beneficial to humans."

The Circular Economy

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation advocates using circular design principles to build a circular economy.  They recommend working to eliminate waste from the economy.  The linear process approach of extracting materials from the Earth, producing products, and then dumping them into the waste stream is a design method that should be made obsolete.  The recommendation of a circular economy has three guiding principles:

1. Eliminate waste and pollution

2. Circulate products and materials (at their highest value)

3. Regenerate nature

The circular economy is a resilient system that decouples the waste of finite resources from economic activity.  Instead, it provides a framework that addresses global biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution, and waste concerns.  Given the harm that most negatively impacts the poorest citizens, we need to reduce these issues.

Circular Design Examples

A blog post by DS Smith shares a design process model where the industrial system drives design principles intending to be regenerative.  They present examples of three companies they supported that are now producing circular design products:

1. G-Star Raw is a jeans producer that uses supply chain design to source materials and manufacture and recycles them at the end of life to meet their sustainability goals.  The company has a RAW Responsibility journey that has initiatives to 1) create fair, healthy, and safe working conditions for all People in the supply chain, 2) use sustainable materials and circular design to minimize their impact on the Planet, and 3) a commitment to a lasting and positive impact on the lives of those that live in the countries where they produce product through Philanthropy by their GSRD Foundation.

2. Häagen-Dazs has partnered with Loop to package their ice cream in reusable packing.  Customers buying products from the London, Ontario, plant will purchase ice cream sold in containers in a pilot with Loop's delivery service, which is a waste-free option for innovative delivery of grocery and household products.  The objective is for Häagen-Dazs to have zero waste, with 100% of its packaging reusable or recyclable by 2025.

3. Phillips has created circular lighting in partnership with architect Thomas Rau.  The result is the design of a lighting system that is fully sustainable that can be upgraded, reused or the components recycled at the end of life.  In addition, the design allows for a lighting ecosystem that minimizes waste and reduces environmental impact.

DS Smith is working with other clients to integrate their Circular Design Principles into everyday practice through proactive cooperation with their clients.

Matej on Pexels
Key Takeaway

The concept of circular design is not a farfetched idea with no fundamental basis.  Several companies are taking the lead in adopting practices that eliminate the waste of the often default approach of linear design.  Innovative manufacturing operations will adopt the circular design process to eliminate the waste of limited resources and improve the quality of life of all Earth's creatures.

Next Step

Individuals interested in adopting circular design can get an overview by reviewing Nike's 10 Principles of Circular Design.  The document lists the ten principles, a quote for each one, and thought starters to help designers ask questions that will lead to products using circular design.

My Gratitude

I am grateful to those leading the work of circular design, including Albin Kälin.  His leadership and the members of his organization work lead to the development of equivalent products with the same capabilities as the original designs.  The result is products that use less material, are more environmentally friendly, are easily recyclable, and at a minimum, do not degrade or, in some cases, enhance product quality.

Sneak Peek

Next week's blog will continue to look at the benefits of adopting circular design from the Cradle to Cradle approach that aligns with the humanist manufacturing framework.  

To learn more about our work or read more blog posts, visit emmanuelstratgicsustainability.com.

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Cover Image Credit: Marc Mueller on Pexels

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