About Ecodesign, Circular Economy and Our Project

About our project

An international team of design centres, public authorities, research institutions and design practitioners has been working together since 2016 to strengthen awareness and practical application of the “design approach” to circular economy across the Baltic Sea Region. In the first three years, partners from Germany, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden hosted exhibitions and workshops, offered consulting and education programmes, and created networks. 

Between 2019 and 2021 eight partners (including a new partner from Russia) were adapting and promoting various tools and workshop formats developed in the first phase, such as the EcoDesign Sprint. These offers are aimed at both designers and environmental experts who want to deepen their environmental and design competence. As services and digital platforms play a central role in the development of modern circular business models, we have made them the focus of our extension project “EcoDesign Circle 4.0”.

EcoDesign Circle 4.0 was an extension stage project in the framework of the Interreg Baltic Sea Region programme. It was co-financed by funds from the European Regional Development Fund, the European Neighbourhood Instrument and the Russian Federation. The Lead Partner was the German Environment Agency. EcoDesign Circle 4.0 followed on from the 2016-2019 Interreg BSR project EcoDesign Circle and ran until May 2021.


Our major goals

Goal 1

To enhance the capability of SMEs to make use of ecodesign

Goal 2

To improve the Baltic Sea Region-wide cooperation between design centres

Goal 3

To increase the capacity of designers in the environmental dimension of design


Our activities


A Circular Design Toolkit for practitioners based on our Learning Factory Ecodesign & our EcoDesign Audit-Sprint methodology


Six “train the trainers” seminars in Estonia, Finland, Germany, Poland, Russia and Sweden

  • Five pilots of our adapted versions of the Ecodesign Learning Factory and the EcoDesign Audit-Sprint Tool

  • Application of the Audit-Sprint Tool in the wood processing industry in Russia


A social media campaign on EcoDesign

Good Service Examples

A collection of inspiring examples and stories of “services” as part of a circular society

Good Policy Examples

A collection and presentation of good policy & cooperation cases promoting circular design.


Common questions

  • Why does ecodesign matter for a sustainable future?
  • How does service provision fit into the ecodesign approach?
  • How did your project come about?
  • Why is the
  • What makes the
  • Who directly benefits from this project?
  • What are your resources?
  • What are your strengths in the project?
  • What has the project brought to the Baltic Sea Region?
  • Have you learnt anything unexpected?
  • If you had three wishes: What would they be?
  • Actually, there are many terms in use, such as “design for sustainability”, “design for the environment”, “ecodesign” or (more recently) “circular design”. These terms differ in meaning and scope, but they all have one crucial issue in common: Design is an important leverage point for sustainability. It has a significant impact on the environmental burden posed by products and services during their complete lifetimes and it considerably affects the creation and modelling of more sustainable systems. By enabling more sustainable (sometimes alternative) ways of production and consumption within the planetary boundaries, design can contribute to a sustainable future in which the more harmful offers and systems are replaced. It is a key element of our transition to a circular economy.

  • From a “circular perspective”, products, their parts and materials should stay in use for as long as possible and sustain their value. Let’s assume that the total volume of materials present in these loops will not further increase. Services can make an important contribution to the “de-materialisation” of our economy. For instance, a system of renting rather than buying washing machines would give the enterprise offering this service a clear incentive to deliver really long-lasting, repairable machines, as they remain their property. This would counter the current trend of “reduced operation times” – maybe even reverse it. Sustainable services can be designed as product-oriented offers (e.g. maintenance, repair, upgrades, take-back), use-oriented offers (e.g. renting, sharing, access to a product) or result-oriented offers (where the producer maintains ownership and the client pays only for the agreed result, e.g. “clean clothes”).

  • A major driver to start this international project were positive experiences with the design-focused approach in Germany. Our project’s lead partner, the German Environment Agency, had already established the “Bundespreis Ökodesign” (a national ecodesign award) in an attempt to promote a market-driven approach to a more sustainable economy (as opposed to a technologically-driven approach to making production and consumption cleaner). This was done in cooperation with the International Design Center Berlin. The award brought professionals specialised in “environmental issues” and in “design questions” together to learn from one another. Design centres seemed to be the optimal partners as they bring together “enterprises” and the “design scene” – ideal for anchoring ecological design as a core principle. The intention then was to promote this approach of putting design in the focus of the transition process to a more circular economy. We thought it would be great to expand this idea to the Baltic Sea Region and initiate an “eco”network.

  • Interdisciplinary work seems to be really fruitful – our tried and tested trainings and workshops “Learning Factory Ecodesign” and “EcoDesign Audit-Sprints” prove it! Uniting professionals and students from environmental science, business, design and other fields brings in more inspiration and experiences. People can directly build on these different backgrounds. As ecodesign or circular design mean more system thinking, this increased level of complexity can only deliver results in a very cooperative, interdisciplinary working style.

  • The EcoDesign Circle (EDC) deals with a topic that really matters: our transition to a circular economy. While circular economy was widely associated with waste avoidance in general and recycling in particular, EDC helps to put the spotlight on the design of products and services. Because the majority of the environmental impact of a product is determined in the design phase, this is a really effective leverage point and our project is a great way to find out exactly how it can be best used.

  • Definitely designers and design-related professionals who are generally interested in environmental issues but so far didn't have a concrete idea about ecodesign. Also the companies that take part get a huge benefit from the analysis of how to be more circular (Audit) and the exciting product / service development cooperation (Sprint). Check out the availability of our ecodesign toolkit and “train the trainer” opportunities that are happening across the Baltic Sea Region in 2020. And finally, design centres themselves are both partners in the project and its target group!

  • We have the brain power of design centre professionals, designers themselves, environmental scientists, microelectronics engineers, business experts, administrators and more - oh, and EUR 2.7 million! (total of two projects).

  • Our mix of backgrounds and disciplines, and a common goal!

  • The first and most immediate benefit for the BSR is a better connection between the various design centres and their entire networks, who had not worked this closely together before. Being in close touch for more than four years now has already enabled a great amount of exchange and transfer of knowledge and working approaches. The wider BSR business community is benefitting from the tool which the project offers as services during its lifetime and which will continue to be available afterwards.

  • Back in 2016 when the project officially started, there was an appreciable imbalance between the Baltic Sea Region countries taking part in terms of how well-known the topic of ecodesign was and how much focus ecological concerns were given by politics, industry and society. Since then, circular economy strategies have been developed and the topic is more talked about. Though there are still differences between countries, it has been really wonderful to see great resonance for public events and entrepreneurial partnerships in this project, especially among younger designers and entrepreneurs throughout the region. There’s a long way to go to a circular economy but the Baltic Sea Region is up to the challenge: the innovative mindset is there!

  • Maybe these ones ...
    1) Ecodesign taught as standard practice across design schools
    2) More consumer awareness and demand for circular services
    3) Some really great and profitable business models to use as best practice examples for circular product and service design.


Some impressions


Lithuania (2018 - 2019)

In 2018 and 2019, the Lithuanian Design Forum was part of "our Circle". This short movie from January 2019 shows impressions from our Roadshow, the EcoDesign Learning Factory and our Closure Conference in Lithuania.

Russia (2019 - 2021)

From 2019 until 2021 the Russian consultancy for creative business strategies Medina Art from Saint Petersburg was part of "our Circle". This short movie documents what happened in this time: a Learning Factory workshop, an EcoDesign Audit-Sprint in a furniture factory, train the trainers workshops for these approaches and a memorandum between like-minded actors to make circular economy a joint approach towards a less resource-intensive and environmentally friendly society.


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