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The Role of Design in the Circular Economy

Ellen MacArthur is a British record-breaking, solo round-the-world yachtswoman who is now promoting the transition to a circular economy, which requires many layers of design. Design can solve problems. Even problems as huge as environmental degradation and the decline of the Earth's biosphere.

The photo above is a detail from the Getty Images photo in the BBC News article "Why Ellen MacArthur is Still Going Round in Circles".

The video below is a great, and short, introduction to to the concept of a circular economy, and the role of design in making it a reality.

The Take/Make/Waste economic model that we have had since the industrial revolution must be – and is being – replaced by this new model. Which is a parallel to, and a return to, the natural model the earth uses to keep its biosphere alive and viable.

Ellen MacArthur started the Ellen MacArthur Foundation which works in education, business innovation and analysis to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.

And because this transition can seem a too-massive undertaking, especially for smaller companies and businesses, her foundation is putting together a global network that links innovators, business and regions that can mutually support each other through the process. This is called the CE100.

Another name for the circular economy is the "cradle to cradle" economy put forward by the Swiss architect and economist Walter Stahel in 1976. Stahel described a "non-linear economy running in loops, reusing materials, and with big implications for job creation, competitiveness, resource savings and waste creation," and the very concept of ownership.

All of this is leading to new business models that are sustainable, and therefore share equally in the benefits for business, people, and the environment. Imagine building capital out of waste, and saving communities, health, and the planet in the process.

My favorite part of this, besides that it currently seems like the best hope for securing a safe, healthy, and economically viable future for my business, family, and children, is that it is all about design. Product design, packaging design, and brand design are an integral part of the transition to a circular economy.





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