The Future is in Circularity
In the interiors, architecture, and built environment industries, the word on everyone’s lips this year is Circularity, and with good reason.
I am an expert in circular and regenerative design, and the creator, executive producer, and host of Chez Laurence, an EarthXTV original series that highlights circularity in the furnishings industry and built environment, and I feel it is incumbent on us designers to lead the way in amplifying how circular economy practices benefit our industry and contribute to a low impact in the building industry.
According to the EPA, furniture waste generated by Americans in 2017 totaled a staggering 12.2 million tons, and 80.2% of it went to landfills. Globally, an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste is created each year. That’s over 100 tons per year of waste simply from furniture and textiles alone!
Our goal is to break free from the traditional, linear design model—in which we make, take, and waste—and instead choose circularity by using existing materials (recycled resources or scraps), and make something new by repurposing, transforming, or upcycling them.
In circular design, the focus is on restoration and regeneration, renewable resources, and reducing landfill waste. It is responsible design. By practicing circular design, we can dramatically change the interior and furnishing industry’s impact on climate change–for the better. This is why I’ve made circular and regenerative my focus as a designer. I believe we have the power to make shifts that will transform the way we do business, and by extension, dramatically reduce the amount of waste our industries produce.
Circular Design is Wellness Design
By embracing circular principles, we can truly design with wellness in mind—benefitting both human life and the Earth—with respect for nature as our guiding light. I see a future where entire cities are planned around and with nature, rather than those for which nature is destroyed to make space. I see a future where nature is celebrated, rather than subjugated, in design.
And thanks to tremendous innovations in waste-reduction efforts within the industry, we’re seeing an incredible surge in the development of new biomaterials—ingeniously crafted from what would otherwise have been waste in a landfill—that are durable, practical, and beautiful enough to replace our destruction of natural resources for building materials.
Would you ever have imagined the park bench you sit on could have been made with coffee grounds and recycled insulin cartridges? Or the flooring in your home could have been crafted in a lab using mycelium (fungal) structures? What if the curtains on your windows were made from photosynthetic algae, and changed color in the sun?
We’re already in a world where your denim jeans may have been crafted from recycled ocean plastics. This is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible, but circularity isn’t just for big manufacturers, urban planners, and scientists.
We can each take responsibility for how much waste we each generate in our daily lives, and find renewable and regenerative alternatives to leaving trash for the landfill. It can be as simple as reusing coffee grounds as fertilizer, shopping at antique stores, demanding transparency from the business you patronize—asking questions like “where did these materials come from?” and “what happens to the waste you produce?”
It’s about donating used clothing and furniture to recyclers or resellers, composting your orange rinds, and “voting with your dollars” by supporting companies who embrace circular practices when you must buy something new. Each small shift contributes to a greater good, and we all must do our part.
Circularity isn’t just a passing fad or hot trend du jour. It’s a solution to a growing and desperate climate crisis, a safety net for future generations, the map toward progress, and the key to a more sustainable future for all.