The Loop

Welcome to The Loop. Your weekly source of circular economy inspiration.

Today, I want to talk about one of the most important things in the circular economy.

Something that so many people ignore and underestimate.

The design.

Design is at the heart of the circular economy.

Here’s why:

80% of products’ environmental impact is locked in the design stage before products leave our factories.

Let’s say you want to make a new chair.

The decisions you make in the design phase have huge implications:

Can we make a new chair out of it again?
What materials will it be made of?
How long will this chair last?
Can it be fixed?

And if you look around at pretty much anything, the answers will probably be:

In theory, but it won’t happen.
Not sure, something virgin.
Not for too long.
Yes, but it won’t.

And before you know it, we consume 100 billion tons of resources, every year, and cycle only 7% back into the economy.

We don’t have time for this.

To go circular, we have to redesign everything.

It’s a world full of new possibilities, new products, and services.

Luckily, there are some fascinating examples from all over the world that I am gonna talk about.

But before we get to that…

♻️ On my radar:

1. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is looking for a new CEO

2. Volvo Cars wants to be a circular company by 2040

3. Global Resources Outlook 2024 is out. And it’s bad

4. Meet me at The Loop Forum (24-25th of April) in Copenhagen

5. Waste management meets AI. Grey Parrot partners with Bollegraaf

6. I started a new company: The Circular Economist ​​
Do you want to get featured in this section? Contact me here for more

Alright, back to the point.

We need a circular design. Now what?

We have to design our products with the right materials, longer lifetime, and for optimal recovery.

Here are 3 key approaches and 9 strategies with awesome real-life examples:

  1. Design out waste

    a) During production:
    Vertical farms use 80% less water to grow food

    b) During use:
    KleenHub is a scalable reusable packaging system
  2. Design for durability

    a) Emotional durability:
    Houdini’s timeless jackets will always look cool

    PS: they even have a super cool circular store in Stockholm

    b) Physical durability:
    Feetures gives you a lifetime warranty on running socks 
  3. Design for cyclability

    a) Design for modularity:
    Mercedez Benz transforms a van into a car 

    b) Design for disassembly:
    You can take this shoe apart + there’s a take-back 

    c) Design for repair:
    Fairphone is the greenest smartphone. Fix it yourself

    d) Design for reuse:
    Coke’s widely popular reuse bottle system in Brazil

    e) Design for recyclability:
    Gouach designs repairable batteries for e-mobility 

You don’t have to do it all.

Pick one, or a combination.

The best part?

You don’t have to be a designer to make sense of this.

As founders, executives, consultants, researchers, or investors we all have a role to play in:

What we build

What we procure

What we invest in

What advice we give

What we challenge and explore

Oh, and one last thing.

You can have the perfect design, but if it won’t sell, nothing is gonna happen.

It’s like a chicken and an egg.

And if the design is chicken, circular business models are the eggs.

If you have a long-lasting product, maybe you lease it instead of selling it!

This email is getting too long to cover that, but…

Hit reply and let me know if you’d like me to talk about this next time.



16 March 2024

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Design is at the heart of the circular economy.

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Design is at the heart of the circular economy.

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