People have been taking, making and disposing of stuff in an alarmingly linear way for too long. Emma Gains, from Arup Denmark and Melissa Ciardullo from IKEA reckon we need a newer, better approach – like that of a circular economy. But how do we make the transition?
What exactly is a circular economy?
Now more than ever, things are being recycled and reused, yet there's still an alarmingly high number of materials, packaging and items that end up in landfills around the world. According to Melissa, in a circular economy, everything you design and produce is a 'material bank' for the future. So, in its simplest form, it's really just a world where landfills don't exist.
How broadly is circular economy adopted today?
Emma and Melissa both agree that the circular economy approach is still in its early stages – the systemic changes simply aren't there yet. We need to move faster, but things are happening. Recently, big, established companies have started bringing sustainability and circular economy into their strategy and ways of working. Patagonia, for example, uses Trove – a website for circular shopping – to enable second-hand sales.
Circular economy to change consumer habits
New systems and economies are being built to facilitate the new loop system – reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing, recycling – and make it a natural part of business models. If you're feeling inspired by the likes of Patagonia and want to make a difference now, it's best to stay ahead of the curve. Create better options for your consumers, and you'll see how their purchasing habits change to reflect what you offer. Because let's face it, we can't expect consumers to change their ways if we don't help facilitate the shift.
Circular economy to support the built environment
According to Emma, we can see a similar trend within urban environments. Creating better buildings will determine how we design spaces and interact with them as consumers and as businesses. We need to be looking at better materials, content, and systems following the circular economy as a principle approach.
Design principles as drivers of change
Design principles help you understand how to prolong the life of products, materials, and techniques and identify where you want your product to exist in a circular economy. It creates a valuable framework for you to work sustainably through the loop system.
What could happen if businesses don't adopt?
Emma and Melissa agree that organisations failing to think about the circular economy or trying to understand their place in the world aren't going to be here in thirty years. Consumer habits will have changed to the extent that businesses dragging their heels will be safe at best, at worst left behind.
But, what can we do as individuals?
Understand the topic, understand the importance of collaboration and getting momentum and buy-in at all levels of an organisation. Challenge yourself to make small changes every day. Stay curious, ambitious and open to new experiences, but be patient and kind with yourself and others, too - change doesn't happen overnight.
Thanks to Emma Gains, Sustainable Development Lead at Arup Denmark, and Melissa Ciardullo, Project Leader for Circular Product Development at IKEA for joining us on this episode. Take a listen – it's a good starting point for anyone who wants to play a part in creating a better future.
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