04. Apr 2022
Five Things Circular to Explore in April
This month, our Design Engineer and circular economy deep diver, Therese Balslev, shares a handful of things to look into if you’re all about circular economy and sustainability
The field of sustainability and circular economy (CE) is constantly developing. Personally, I think it sometimes feels like a full-time job if you want to keep up to speed with all the initiatives happening around the world.
There’s an infinite internet jungle booming with insightful knowledge on this topic – so where to start (or pick up) when you have your eyes set on this urgent agenda for our planet?
I’d like to share five of my current highlights on circular economy with you. They cover general knowledge, research, specific (design) tools you can apply, and podcast episodes to listen to when getting your spring cleaning done
The background: ‘Breaking Boundaries – The Science of our Planet’
This Netflix documentary provides a macro view on why it’s urgent to seriously get started circulating our resources. It gives you a snippet of motivation and an understanding of the negative environmental impacts caused by the human species. We have pushed Mother Earth beyond her boundaries. And we know that circularity is one of the vital means by which we can combat the overshooting of the planetary boundaries.
The documentary gives you background knowledge and ensures to put our environmental issue into a bigger picture. It expands the ideas of CE and makes sure we move away from a tendency to focus on recycling and sorting waste. Instead, it makes CE a matter of re-generativity. It shows us why business (and behavior) as usual ought to stop – like, yesterday.
The (comprehensive) overview of CE: The CIRCit Nord Research Project
This five-year Nordic research project gave me new insights and perspectives on circular economy and inspiration for tools to apply in different contexts. The project’s objective was to support the Nordic industry to discover and implement opportunities around CE through the development, testing, and implementation of science-based tools.
On their website, you find an ocean of interesting scientific papers, 79 company cases (so far), videos from their final workshop, and several tools to look into. You can potentially spend hours getting to know this project and the results. All of their workbooks, which are the project’s main output, are worth reading. Though, suppose I should highlight some of my favorites. In that case, I recommend you look at one of the following:
Each workbook takes you through the focus area and a suggested process presented as a step-by-step guide with tools to apply along the way.
The details: ‘Getting in the Loop’ by Katie Whalen
This podcast is one of my favorites on CE. Katie, the host, is great at embracing the complexity of CE. She gets around topics within circularity spanning from product design and business models to digitalization, culture, social sustainability aspects, and more. I recently listened to these three episodes and highly recommend them:
• Circular design and business models for longer-lasting electronics
Interesting insights on how manufacturing can be rethought and the potential to turn them into a refurbishment/remanufacturing facility, but aiming to expand the lifetime of products and materials instead.
• Addressing social aspects in CE
Focus on how we can address human needs thanks to CE by building regenerative societies in alignment with living systems. It makes you reflect upon how we can create a CE not just for materials and products but for humans who are the ones to drive the change and make sure it happens.
• Circular materials and measuring CE
On critical raw materials and the importance of measuring circularity. The guest, Jim Goddin, talks about the process of leading and co-authoring the Material Circularity Indicator (MCI) at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
The CE toolkit: Designing your circular transition
Naturally, I recommend you look at our recently launched circular toolkit available in both Danish and English on our website and as a digital template on Miro. Our CE toolkit consists of eight tools that aim to guide you through a circular innovation process and provide you with the guidance and resources you need. The toolkit is a resource for companies and organizations who want to start (or continue) working more creatively and collaboratively with a circular economy in their team(s). Each of the tools provides you with a step-by-step guide, are free of charge, and is open-source to everyone.
You can watch a tour-de-force of the toolkit and a panel discussion on the topic from our Design AM.
The bonus toolkit: Design for behavior change by Bridgeable
How can we design our products, systems, and societies for behavioral changes that lead to increased circulation of our precious resources?
Bridgable’s toolkit – Design for behavior change – gives you an understanding of different behavioral economics principles based on research. They’re presented in a funny yet relatable manner.
The toolkit suggests that you follow a process they designed, which should be regarded as an input in a (regular) design process. If you don’t intend to look through the toolkit guide and apply the canvases they provide you with, you can, as a minimum, scroll through the behavioral economics principles cards. I wish that they had been a part of my ‘knowledge bank’ a bit earlier. I promise they are both amusing and a little bit thought-provoking at the same time!
When having this methodology in mind, the question is how we can apply this knowledge and insight to design behavior changes for a circular economy. The way we treat our products and resources and act in our everyday lives dramatically influences our environmental impact and planetary boundaries.
How might we consider the proven principles of natural human behavior when designing an irresistible circular society?
Can’t get enough of design and innovation? We hear you. And we have you covered.
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