We talk a lot at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation about “regenerating natural systems”. It is one of the core principles of the circular economy. However, the meaning of the phrase “regenerating natural systems” is not immediately clear to everyone and you are not alone if you find yourself asking, “what does that even mean?!”
In the Ted Talk below, chef Dan Barber describes visiting a fish farm that wonderfully captures the idea of regeneration. With some thought and by paying attention, our activities don’t need to damage natural ecosystems, they can make them even healthier.
Earlier this year Ellen MacArthur travelled to Vancouver to present at TED2015. In her 17 minute talk she shares the most important lesson that she learned while sailing solo around the world. It’s a great watch to end your day on a high!
To learn more about the circular economy the Ellen MacArthur Foundation have a number of resources available:
Circulate is an online news publication edited by the Foundation. Updated daily, it is a great source of stories and links related to the transition to a circular economy.
Every year the Foundation hosts an open-source online event, the Disruptive Innovation Festival. This 3-week event (taking place Nov 2 – 20 2015) brings together thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, designers, businesses, learners and doers to catalyse the system change necessary to shift to the future economy. You can get involved either by participating either as a viewer or by contributing your own ideas!
Last week Friday was the final day of the second annual Schmidt-MacArthur Summer School and the occasion was marked with an afternoon exploring Oxford, punting down the river (unbelievably nobody fell in!) and enjoying a sumptuous farewell/awards dinner. After an intensive week of lectures, interactive workshops and heated discussions, all centred around the circular economy, the relaxation was hard-earned by all.
The week-long Summer School, held this year at Cranfield University, is an opportunity for the Schmidt-MacArthur Fellows and Mentors from all over the world to come together to share their thoughts and understanding of the circular economy. Through the intensive programme of lectures, workshops and activities it is also a chance to develop a deeper understanding of the principles and practicalities of transitioning to a circular economy. The week began with a “get to know you” session and escalated rapidly from there with the setting of the Summer School Challenge. Fellows were tasked with applying their learning to the question: “How can a city like Detroit evolve positive or regenerative cycles of development?” and were to present their solutions at the end of the week. A full run down of the week’s activities can be found here.
The Summer School experience was possibly the closest I have (and hopefully will ever) come to being caught in a whirlwind. I was swept up on Sunday evening, when I met some of the other Fellows for the first time, into the world of the circular economy and only came back down to earth on Friday afternoon in Oxford. I’m not even sure I have fully recovered yet! After five days of listening to and interacting with business leaders, thought leaders, designers, academics, subject experts and incredibly bright students I feel overwhelmingly that the momentum of the circular economy is building at a rapid pace. I am very excited to be a part of that momentum.
One of the highlights of the week was attending the CE100 Summit held at the Royal Institution in London. The annual gathering of companies that make up the CE100 as well as a selection of academic and business leaders, the summit was nothing short of inspiring. Hearing businesses present their successes in the circular economy, often achieved in the short year since the inaugural summit, demonstrated that the circular economy is not simply a dream, but can be made into reality. If the buzz on Twitter is anything to go by, then simply the engagement and debate provoked by the summit speak to its success.
With the presentations of the Fellows’ solutions to the challenge set at the start of the week and the relaxing afternoon spent in Oxford, the second annual Summer School came to a close. Those Fellows who travelled from distant lands have now returned and work will begin in earnest on all of our Circular Economy Innovation Projects. I am well on the way to creating a vision for fast-moving consumer goods in the circular economy, in the hope that sharing provocative, compelling stories about the possibilities of the future can spur the innovation and commitment needed to get us there.
The week may be over, but the Fellowship most certainly is not. As with the Fellowship that set off for Mordor in The Lord of the Rings, the road before us is a long one. But it is an incredibly exciting one, supported by people who are committed to turning the idea of a circular economy, an economy that is regenerative by design, into a reality.
PS: If you are interested in getting involved in this exciting space, take a look at the video below!