Are Designers really following the Concept of Circular Economy?
Design sits at the heart of circular economy as it requires to redesign everything, products, business models, cities and linear systems.
Role of Design in Circular Economy
As designers, we are always looking for ways to make our designs more sustainable. This is done by using specific materials and spaces efficiently but we often fail to adequately keep the focus on this endeavor. Remanufacturing and recycling are important aspects of the circular economy in design as it retains and recovers material value. This ensures that products generate maximum value by prolongation of its lifespan.
Most products are created today with planned obsolescence built in; eventual and prompt disposal being the obvious end of the product’s life. Besides reuse and recycling, it is important to begin think about the ecological impact of the product while they are manufactured, used and disposed of in order to reduce unnecessary carbon emissions.
Importance of sustainably sourcing materials
Materials that offer the most value with the least environmental impact, wastage, and energy consumption should be considered on priority. Adapting these practices, the designer and the client benefit from healthy work environments, operational cost-savings, and lower maintenance costs. Most brands can significantly benefit from a brand image bolstered by environmental consciousness and responsible business practices..
- Sustainable materials have long term impact- Designers usually work with contractors and larger companies on a daily bases and should evaluate all material properties that are used for projects. The assessment of the impact of the material chosen is not just related to material efficiency and cost-effectiveness, but also long-term employee well-being, health, and safety.
- Growing concept in Design- The concepts of circular economy and sustainably sourcing materials have been steadily increasing and there has been a shift from a linear to a more circular model as designers become more conscious and educate their clients towards the importance of sustainable design.
Industry wastage of materials and resources.
How to avoid such wastage as designers/Efficiently sourcing them?!
Designing for a circular economy sounds very efficient and straight-forward but can be quite challenging nowadays. Most products and spaces are designed with a linear model and the concept of sustainably sourcing were never taken into consideration.
Designers need to completely rethink and transform they way they think during the design thinking process itself. Design decisions lead us to long-term investments that lock us one specific model which is expensive and time-consuming to reassess and modify later on. Efficient planning and though during the initial stages can avoid various headaches later. This includes business models, materials choices, aesthetic features, and the way the design functions and interacts with the people. Thoughts of whether the material can be reused, repurposed, repaired or refurbished should be a primary concern during the initial design stage.
Moving from a Linear to Circular Economy.
Designers are mostly aware of the whole circular economy practice and reducing costs over time for the client. However, various practices are often not put into practice because of client budget constraints..
The global pandemic has opened our eyes to how fragile our current system is and how essential it is for us to create resilience through the design process. Redesigning our products and systems, for example, plays an essential role in achieving our climate targets, by reducing GHG emissions, retaining embodied energy, and sequestering carbon.
There is no perfect solution but adapting good design practices is a start to an evolving process that will continually strive towards a much better future.