How can circular design potentially save our planet?


If we’re talking about circular economy, we can’t leave out one of the most crucial aspects that is the backbone of this model: circular design. What exactly is circular design? What’s so important about it? Why are we in desperate need for more of this type of design? How can circular design potentially save our planet?

Looking beyond the current take-make-waste extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles: 
1. Design out waste and pollution
2. Keep products and materials in use
3. Regenerate natural systems.

Why is design essential?

Take a look around you and you will notice that everything around us has been designed by someone. The clothes we wear, the phones we use, the buildings we live in, and the systems that deliver food and transportation, they’ve all been designed by somebody. Most of our society follows a linear “take-make-waste” model, in which products are made, used, then thrown away; in fashion and plastic industries, for example, products are designed in a way that more than 80% of materials end up in landfills, incinerators, and often leaked into natural environments. With such a model where products are not designed to be recycled and reused to make new materials, the amount of resources we take from our planet and the waste that is being generated is alarming. Our planet’s resources are finite, and we cannot continue to take without caring or dealing with the consequences. 



Rather than just about products or aesthetics, “design as a discipline has moved from the traditional concept of visual or tangible artifact through to orchestrating interactions and experiences, and to transforming systems,” Nesta explains. Design in the circular economy is so important because these are the decisions that most often lead to long-term investments that stick to one particular model for years, and how a product, as well as the whole production system is designed, will greatly affect and determine whether said product can be reused and regenerated in a closed-loop cycle that minimizes waste. 

In order for a circular model to work, the entire life-cycle of a product must be considered all throughout the design process, and decisions must be made accordingly to keep products and materials in circulation at their highest value. This way, we are creating a sustainable system that eliminates waste and pollution, preserves our planet’s natural resources, and provides a long-term solution to a more sustainable and healthy planet. It’s about looking at the bigger picture, looking beyond just the final product and what happens when it’s no longer needed, and designing better solutions within a regenerative system. 



With sustainability and love for the planet at the core of Koup, we’ve designed our products with the idea of circularity in mind, so that the products can be recycled and broken back down to its original material to be remade again. Our signature cinnamon t-shirt was designed with a single material, which is 100% recycled polyester, making our t-shirts 100% recyclable. By creating products with the end-life in mind, we can recycle as much as possible into new materials for future products, and continue to do the same over and over again without taking more resources and generating waste throughout the whole process.

Check out our cinnamon t-shirts here!

Circular Design And Our Planet

“Now, we are at a critical point in time and circular design can help us address global challenges at the root. Climate change and biodiversity loss equally reveal our short-sightedness and demand that we find new ways of doing business that are less extractive. 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.”

From plant-based, biodegradable chairs to 3D printed houses, more and more brands and companies are transitioning from a linear economy model to a circular one that considers the life-cycle and environmental impacts of their products. However, this transition is not easy, because it takes time, money, re-designing, and re-thinking the entire system so we don’t simply toss away what’s broken or not needed, but rather have the means and ways to have such products regenerated without producing more waste.

We can’t continue to turn a blind eye to climate change and the harm it's causing people and the planet. The overexploitation of natural resources leads to global warming, biodiversity loss, species extinction, water and air pollution, deforestation, ocean acidification, and many more. Through circular design and the circular economy model, we have the ability to slow down climate change and restore our earth.



“Design is about change, and change can be good or bad. But the importance here is that design should be about improving situations – particularly the human condition – as design should be about making things better, not worse. The aim is to create a preferred situation, a future state, that is better than the current state.”


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