The Circle goes on! - EcoDesign Circle 4.0 will focus on designing services for a circular society

How can ecological design help to shape the economy 4.0 and advance the transition to a circular model? What opportunities does digitalisation offer sustainable service design? And what do practitioners and supporters of ecodesign need in order to bring it to life on a large, effective scale? These questions lie at the heart of the project EcoDesign Circle 4.0.

An international team of design centres, public authorities and design practitioners has been working together since 2016 to strengthen the awareness and practical application of the design approach to circular economy across the Baltic Sea Region. We look back on the successful development of tools for enterprises (EcoDesign Audit and Sprint) and practitioners (EcoDesign Learning Factory) as well as our ongoing one-stop-shop for all materials and inspiration you might need on the topic (Sustainability Guide).

EDC4 01
© Paweł Jóźwiak
EDC4 02
© Paweł Jóźwiak

Still not quite sure what we’re up to? Imagine four people, one each from marketing, engineering, design and sustainability science, working together to redesign a sneaker for the new, circular system. How can the sneaker be long-lasting and sustainably sourced? Independent of “fast fashion”? Part of a closed loop of production and use? These are some of the questions discussed during a run of the “EcoDesign Learning Factory”. What happens here is primarily a learning exercise, but twin tools “EcoDesign Audit and Sprint” translate this questioning approach into practical application. Companies, design agencies and sustainability experts join together in several workshop sessions to identify an enterprise’s barriers to more sustainability. They address these by coming up with concrete actions and developing, even prototyping new, circular, products and services that deliver solutions. 

These are two formats developed during the project EcoDesign Circle. When it comes to our society’s ability to combat the climate emergency, design is an important leverage point as it is responsible for about 80% of the environmental impact of any product. Therefore, to raise the impact or circular design thinking, our extension project EcoDesign Circle 4.0 wants to go beyond products and focus on services. We ask: How can other business models help to keep products in use and functioning properly for as long as possible? In the end, how can materials be easily separated and recycled to form closed loops? Concepts such as sharing, renting, and innovative take-back and collection systems all form part of the transition to a smart, circular economy. All this is connected by the digital dimension: the rental and sharing platform, the app that helps you find “soon-to-be-leftover” food at local restaurants… they are all part of circular thinking.

With our examples and experiences of design for a circular economy we also want to reach policy-makers and other multipliers. It is not only a theory, there are already good, practical approaches. We want people to know more about ecodesign and be aware of the choice it offers for responsible, sustainable consumption. We also want to further share our Sprint approaches to strengthen circular design as basis for a circular economy. Watch out for calls for enterprises to participate in our new round of pilot schemes in ecodesign service development. Want to become a competent (and confident!) ecodesign trainer? On the lookout for inspiring events and opportunities to network and exchange knowledge? Then watch this space – we have plenty of interesting opportunities coming up and will keep you informed via our website, Twitter and Facebook.

Our dynamic project team has expanded to go beyond the EU and now includes our Russian partner, Medina Art Ltd and the Technische Universität Berlin. The full team met for the project kick-off in Berlin at the end of August, and have jumped straight into action for the next 18 months!

(EcoDesign Circle 4.0 is an extension stage project in the framework of the Interreg Baltic Sea Region programme. It is co-financed by funds from the European Regional Development Fund and the Russian Federation. The Lead Partner is the German Environment Agency. EcoDesign Circle 4.0 follows on from the 2016-2019 Interreg BSR project EcoDesign Circle.)