Breaking Down Circular Design

Throughout the past few years of learning about climate change, sustainability, overconsumption and everything in between I have come across so many different ideas and solutions. From online seminars, documentaries, books, and taking classes at FIT for my sustainable design certificate I have taken in a lot of information and a lot of opinions. But the one that resonates the most with me and also something that the average consumer doesn't know enough about is circular design. I believe that this is something that should be implementing into all product creation ASAP.

What is circular design?

Circular design is the idea of a product being designed to be reused, redesigned, or upcycled- creating little to no waste or harm. It's the idea of eliminating waste and not having to use new resources every time to make something. Once it's no longer wanted, needed, or can’t be used - the product can be repaired, redesigned, or returned to the environment easily. I took an entire class solely on circular design at FIT and it was one of my favorite classes, my professor defined it as: "The intention to be used and circulate responsibly and effectively for as long as possible in most valuable form, and return safely into the environment when no longer of human use."

How can circular design help the environment?

Circular design helps the environment by protecting it, not having to continually take resources faster than they can renew (clean water, healhty soil, trees for woodpulp). Less waste goes into landfills this way, and less ecosystems are continually harmed. Everything is thought of in the very beginning of circular design so unnecessary materials or substances are cut out before it's too late. The potential damage or harm of the product is thought of before the product is being made. The end life of the product is just as important as the beginning. If it can't be renewed, it can be disposed of safely unlike most products that end up in landfills and cause harm much longer than it was used for.

How can circular design be implemented?

While it's best to implement circular design before a product is made, some companies - specifically clothing brands are implementing it as an after thought, or as a transitional approach. Think of recycling and give back programs. You send in your old and unwanted clothes to be recycled or made into something new. Junk yards where car parts can be reused is another example. Best Buy has also had a take back program for a while now. Fab Scrap in the fashion industry takes unwanted scraps from fashion houses and re-sells them at a great price. This gives the fabrics and trims a second change to be made into something rather than being thrown away. With my experience in the industry, there is SO much waste that isn't necessary - all fashion companies should be using Fab scrap or some type of recycling system for unwanted scraps.

Who is using a circular design model?


Patagonia launched their own site called Worn Wear where they have Recrafted garments they have taken back from customers that no longer wanted or could wear anymore and have made them into something new. Customers also have the option to have their garments repaired and sent back to them. Bags, jackets, vests, and t-shirts are all available at a great price. I sent out a link in my latest email to my subscribers about how the process works - click here to read it. Patagonia makes it super easy to take back old clothes - they will even buy it off you. If the garment doesn't fall within their terms for buying you can still mail in your unwanted garments. If you have a store near you - you can stop by and give back clothes directly in store, although i'm not sure if that still applies now because of Covid.

To shop Patagonia's Recrafted collection click here.

Eileen Fisher

Eileen Fisher is another leader in the sustainable design community. Like Patagonia, Eileen Fisher has sustainable practices throughout their entire company - they are both B Corp certified and proudly offer transparency on all their initiatives and practices on their website. Renew is the name of Eileen Fisher's clothing line that resells used clothing. They also have a resewn collection where they have repaired garments for resale as well. These garments are at a lower cost which is great for those on a budget but still what to make better choices.

To shop Eileen Fishers renew or resewn collection click here.

Watch this quick video below where Eileen Fisher discusses her beliefs and why it isn't just about money and earning a profit.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation: Make Fashion Circular Initiative

The Make Fashion Circular initiative was founded in 2018 at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. Burberry, Gap, H&M, and Stella McCartney are a few brands that have partnered with the initiative. They are currently developing a "jeans redesign" program that will be on the market May 2021. These jeans are designed to be worn longer, to easily be renewed, with ethical treatment of garment workers, and harmful chemicals within the process. Interested? Click here to learn more.

How can I support circular design?

Support brands and companies that have or are implementing a circular design model. If some of your favorite brands aren't - write them! Fashion Revolution offers great templates to send out to companies asking those types of important questions. Second hand shops are another example of a somewhat circular model as it diverts waste from a landfill. My post on how to shop with a sustainable mindset may also help you when making purchase decisions. The book Cradle to Cradle is a great resource that I would recommend for everyone to read (it's only $4 on Better World Books). You can also ask yourself the below questions, which is a much simpler take - but much easier to remember!

Purchase Decision Questions:

- desirable

- durable

- remarkable

- reusable

- recyclable

- materials

- ethically produced

If you like reading my more educational posts like this - let me know! If not, let me know what your interested in or want to read more about.

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