Sustainability 101

Sustainability 101: Below are a few great sources that will give some context to what we mean by Circular Design.

Designing for Net Zero Waste

Circular design is about keeping valuable materials in continuous circulation and not moving them from the resource column into the waste or pollution column. The first step is to understand and identify what needs to change, before we reach the ultimate goal of net-zero waste.

Circular Economy Principles

Cradle to Cradle

This is the fundamental design idea that will allow harmony between people (products) and nature. Cradle to Cradle is a design framework that calls for a shift in thinking about products as doing "less bad" (eco-efficiency) to doing "more good" (eco-effectiveness). The concept, developed by William McDonough and Dr. Michael Braungart in the 1990s, eliminates the concept of waste and instead perceives it as “food” for another product or cycle. Cradle to Cradle® identifies two material cycles: biological and technical.


Further Reading
Read William McDonough's book - Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
Find our more on how to become C2C certified with MBDC


Ellen MacArthur's Circular Economy

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is one of the definitive resources on the Circular Economy that we love to reference.

In their words, the Circular Economy is a manifestation of economic models that highlight business opportunities where cycles rather than linear processes, dominate. It is restorative and regenerative by design and aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times

Glossary of Terms for Sustainable Packaging Design

Some terms we use to describe seemingly sustainable materials don't actually have as much positive effect as we would like.  

Refilled   This is an ideal system as it reduces packaging waste, so long as the packaging for refills is sustainable. 

Made from post consumed materials (PCR)   Reducing the reliance on virgin material production is very positive. However, rather than being one removed from the inevitable landfill or incineration, our goal needs to be keeping the materials in a loop and making it as easy as possible for consumers to get it back to a place for recycling.

Reduced Materials   Minimizing packaging and reducing materials used not only makes them more sustainable, it makes them more economical.  Value and sustainability engineering should be a part of any product development process.

Recyclable  Hypothetically, most items can be recycled, at least in part. It’s an open ended term that offers no solution or commitment to actually recycle anything.  

Returnable   Some companies have return/recycle/reward programs. It is unknown and difficult to track down how much of these returns actually end up responsibly recycled vs. ending up in normal waste streams.

Compostable / Degradable  Many degradable and compostable plastics end up taking a very long time to break down or require industrial facilities which do not exist in the US. It doesn’t mean your home composting!

Offset   Often times a Greenwashing tactic with minimal affect on overall sustainability or carbon footprint. “We’ll plant a tree for every $100 you spend”...


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