What is Eco-Design and what is the Circular Economy?
Take a look around your house, your office, your school. There are hundreds of products, from your mobile to windows, to coffee machines and television screens. While they are different in function, they have one common characteristic in design: they use a number of resources such as raw and processed materials, energy and water. But how eco-friendly and energy-efficient are they?
Through Eco-Design – the process of tackling product design by accessing and integrating the environmental impact – we decrease the amount of energy and resources used and make it easier to recycle certain parts of products. As consumers, this saves us money, reduces our carbon footprint, ultimately contributing to a sustainable planet.
The concept of the Circular Economy is similar but expands the concepts mentioned across an entire economy, moving away from “take-make-consume and dispose” to “re-using, repairing, refurbishing and recycling.” Eco-Design contributes to the Circular Economy by changing the way products are designed, manufactured and sold. With this approach we move towards zero waste.
The European Union’s Circular Economy Package: The good news for us living in the European Union is that today, a discussion is taking place in Brussels, specifically in the European Commission, to introduce a series of measures to ensure the European economy will be a Circular Economy! Find out more about the EU’s proposal below.
When the economy moves in a circle (re-using, repairing, refurbishing and recycling), European industry and consumers benefit most. In particular when product design embraces resource efficiency, recycling and reuse, it:
- saves money on your energy bills (net savings for European consumers and businesses of €90 billion per year or €280 per household per year)
- creates green jobs (estimates the creation of 2 million additional jobs)
- mitigates health hazards (increases air quality, water management)
- contributes to sustainable living and mitigates climate change
- decreases and/or excludes the number of toxic and hazardous substances found in products
Nike Considered is a prime example of how clothing can be eco-designed so that they can be more easily recycled.
Most of the material used to make Nike Considered line of shoes are sourced within 320 km of the factory. They are also made of recycled products in order to “minimize or eliminate all substances known to be harmful to the health of biological or ecological systems”.
These shoes are designed to be more easily and effectively recycled in Nike’s Reuse–A-Shoe programme. The mechanical interlocking design of the outsole – which eliminates the need for chemical primers or adhesives – makes it easier to separate and recycle the components. [More info]
Scoff-ee. Disposable coffee cups are a massive source of waste. The US alone throws out over 25 billion styrofoam coffee cups every year, so an edible coffee cup sounds like it could be quite a good idea. Enter the ‘Scoff-ee,’ a coffee cup made from cookies, white chocolate, a thin layer of sugar and “infused aromas” that is set to launch at KFC locations in the UK. It doesn’t sound like it’ll be the healthiest thing in the world, but it does have a certain ring of “waste not, want not.” [More info]
Hultö Chair. While Ikea turns out a lot of plastic, non-organic textiles, and wood from at times, it also offers well-designed goods made from natural fibers and sustainable materials — like the Hultö chair, made from renewable rattan and stackable to save space when you can cut back on seating. [More info]
Do you see things around your house or office that should have been an Eco-Design?
Want to find out more examples of Eco-Designs? Click here.
Today, in 2015, European Union’s politicians in Brussels are brainstorming new ideas about the circular economy. Towards the end of 2015, the European Commission will publish the new Circular Economy Package.
While many of the ideas will not be new, a greater role for eco-design should be foreseen. But this has NOT been the case: Most of the European Commission’s communications up until today has focused mainly on waste management – the end part of the cycle – and not at all on Eco-Design.
Without a decision on Eco-Design – which will allow more products to be recycled – the proposal will not achieve a truly Circular Economy!
It is an opportunity for us – the consumers and EU citizens – to voice our opinion on how we think the European Union should #EcoThisEU Circular Economy package.
Timeline of the European Commission’s 2015 Circular Economy Package:
- End-May to Beginning-August 2015: Public consultation (12 weeks)
- 25 June 2015: European Commission Stakeholder Conference
- June-October 2015: Impact Assessment on legislative elements of the new Circular Economy Package
- November-December 2015: Publication of the new Circular Economy Package
Act now! You can tell the European Commission that eco-designs need to be a core component of their proposal. Otherwise, it will not have a significant impact on our environment, our economy and our future.
How you can help
You can help us by contributing tweets and photos tagged with #ECOthisEU.
Do you see things around your house or office that should have been an eco-design?
Take a photo of it in Instagram or Twitter and tag it with #ECOthisEU! And we will feature it here!
Here is the gallery of the latest contributions by people from across Europe.