Now We Have a Plan

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!

Learn More…!

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!

Have you seen any examples of a circular economy in action? Share in the comments below!


The Economy is Changing

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 prestigious "Leeky Flows" award received by Kevin Shahbazi for losing his mentor during the week.
The prestigious “Leeky Flows” award received by Kevin Shahbazi for losing his mentor during the week.

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.

Fellows getting the chance to pose questions to Ellen MacArthur.
Fellows getting the chance to pose questions to Ellen MacArthur.

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.

A tiny selection of the Tweets flying around during the CE100 Summit.
A tiny selection of the Tweets flying around during the CE100 Summit.

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!

A Fellowship Without a Ring

I wish I could tell you that I was recently involved in the forming of a fellowship of brave people, about to set off on a perilous journey across thousands of miles of rugged terrain to deliver an incredibly powerful and dangerous object to a fiery volcano deep within the heart of enemy territory…but I can’t. The fellowship I am a part of is slightly different and noticeably less hazardous.

Not the destination of this Fellowship thankfully...!
Not the destination of this Fellowship thankfully…!

The Schmidt-MacArthur Fellowship was formed not to destroy the One Ring, but to accelerate the transition to the Circular Economy. It brings together students and academics from around the world to create and share knowledge and research across business, engineering and design, all within the context of the Circular Economy. We are a fellowship of 17, instead of 9, and come from top universities around the world including MIT and Stanford in the US, Tongji University in China, The National Institute of Design in India and my own Cranfield University.

This week we will be coming together at C4D, Cranfield for the annual Summer School, an intense week of workshops, lectures and challenges aimed at developing the systems thinking perspective necessary to tackle the challenges of the Circular Economy. During the week we will be attending the CE100 Summit, taking place at the Royal Institution in London, where we will have the opportunity to network with businesses and academics leading the charge towards circularity. It promises to be whirlwind experience and I will be sharing my thoughts and photos on Twitter if you’re interested in what we are getting up to.

The video above formed part of my application to the Fellowship and as it highlights, my particular interest is in collaborative consumption. My research project is taking a slightly different, but no less interesting, direction. Titled “Fast-Moving Circular Goods 2025″, my project involves developing a vision for the future of the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry in a circular economy. I will be working with global FMCG companies to develop provocative stories aimed at inspiring action to realise that vision.

Frodo, Sam, Gandalf and their companions set out to destroy a ring and save their world. In a sense (and with considerable dramatic license) the Schmidt-MacArthur Fellowship is not too dissimilar. We are setting out to save our world from the perils of our current linear system in the hopes of improving our world. We won’t be fighting orcs or riding eagles, but that’s not going to stop me thinking of myself as Frodo…

Fairphone: Circular economy principles and alternative financing models

A great piece by Schmidt-MacArthur Fellow Beate Sonerud on principles of the circular economy. Well worth a read!


A few weeks ago I was introduced to Fairphone. It is a company that produces mobile phones ethically, with the aim to create awareness around the unsustainable practices in electronics products, from sourcing to production, use and disposal. I want to highlight this start-up company as they are addressing aspects of sustainable business that I am interested in, notably the circular economy and sustainable finance. I also think it is interesting to explore a start-up, as I have mostly so far blogged about existing, larger companies.

The key circular economy principles of design for longer use, repair and disassembly were explained in an earlier post. Fairphones are designed for longer use by having easily replaceable batteries – a very simple fix, but that my iPhone does not have. Online guides and a partnership with iFixit, an online repair community, facilitates repair. In terms of disassembly, I think Fairphone…

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Collaboration of the Week – Zipcar

Automobiles. We have a very interesting relationship with these wheeled, gasoline fuelled, transportation devices. We lust over the beautiful ones, argue about the fastest ones, spend afternoons watching them race around circuits and, for a large part of our lives, dream about driving them for the first time. Not only do we love cars; we love to own cars. We like to show them off. We build special shelters for them to protect them from the elements (and opportunists). But it doesn’t have to be this way…

A car I frequently dream about
A car I frequently dream about

Unless you spend your entire day (and possibly night) in your car do you really need to own it? Just take a minute to think about how often you use your car in a day. For a lot of people the answer to this is only a couple of hours, driving to and from work every day with a short trip to the grocery on the way home. For some it is even less, maybe you work from home and use the car to nip down to the shops or over to a friend’s house every other day. I’m not making this up. A transportation study conducted by the UK department of transportation in 2010 found that people spend, on average, an hour a day travelling. Do we really need to own a car, paying all of the associated costs, when we only use them for an hour a day?

Zipcar is a company that turns the car ownership model on its head in a great way. The smart people who came up with the idea realised that (ego and status aside) we don’t really need to own cars, we just need to have access to them when we need them. The concept (like most collaborative consumption models) is simple. Zipcar owns fleet of cars that a parked in locations all over a city. Having registered as a member of the service you find the car nearest to you and book it for however long you need it, from an hour to a week. To unlock the car you simply swipe the “Zipcard” posted to you when you signed up and away you go, returning the car to its parking space when you are done.

What does this all cost? You can either pay an annual membership fee of around £59.50 or a monthly fee of £6. You then pay by the hour when you book a car with prices ranging from £5 to £9 per hour depending on the type of vehicle. Not bad hey! What’s even better is that this hourly rate includes 40 miles worth of fuel, insurance, and the congestion charge if you’re in London. I haven’t crunched the numbers myself, but the people at Zipcar reckon that you save a whole heap of money using their service instead of buying your own car.

The service obviously isn’t going to be perfect for everyone. It’s probably best suited to people who have to make a trip by car every now and then, or only have a few short trips a week. What it is, is a start in the right direction. It is proof that we don’t necessarily need to own our own car. I love it!