“Will you be my partner?” was the catchy title of the report by Circle Economy on how collaboration is key to transition to a resilient and circular economy. This starting point was one of the reasons why we, as Furnify Circular Design, collaborated with Cooloo and The Substitute during the Week of the Circular Economy to host a half-day event: The Interior Intensive.

Architects, interior designers, product designers and (sustainable) interior brands joined us for an afternoon to discuss our struggles, ‘Aha’s’, learnings and takeaways. And to share our network because of what we three have in common: We are mission-driven companies. And we believe in accelerating towards a more circular economy through sharing.

We kicked off the program with a keynote by Marieke Kamphuis and Anne-Marie Rakhorst, focusing on the topic: ‘Urgency on our doorstep. You snooze, you lose.’ Marieke Kamphuis set the stage with a shocking trend: Within five years, the world economy went from circulating 9,1% of its resources to 7,2%. Thus, despite the increased effort, the percentage of materials returning to the production cycle is decreasing.

Despite this confronting reality, the Dutch government has adopted the ambition to be fully circular by 2050. To reach this goal, the government has set up a ‘Transition Agenda’ of 5 focus sectors:

  • Biomass and Food
  • Plastics
  • Manufacturing Industry
  • Building and Construction
  • Consumer Goods

Furniture and Interior fall under the segment ‘Consumer Goods’, and as the chair of the Transition Agenda of Consumer Goods, Anne-Marie pleads for a design that is easy to repair, reuse and recycle. During the talk she shines light on the upcoming jungle of regulations. “A milestone”, she says, “was the European Green Deal.” It aims to make Europe a climate-neutral territory by 2050, and it includes a roadmap to boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean and circular economy.

The Circular Economy Action Plan describes the new regulations coming our way. Manufacturers will be forced in the future to ensure that products last longer. A few outtakes of the upcoming regulations are:

  • Users are given a right to repair including the possibility and access to repair
  • A ‘product-as-a-service’ model will be stimulated. A consumption model where producers are incentivised to produce quality
  • By 2030 all packing needs to be recyclable
  • A CO2 pricing will increase every year by 2030
  • Big companies will need to carry out Energy audits every four years and report on it
  • Transportation will need to be carbon neutral – a ban on production of gasoline driven cars by 2035 is introduced
  • Ban of micro-plastic and pollution of air, water, and land to be banned completely by 2050

Next up on our program was a panel discussion between Sabrina van Dongen (Furnify), Ricco Fiorito (Cooloo) and Machteld Rijnten (The Substitute). We asked what designers, architects, and brands struggle most when transitioning from a linear to a circular business model. According to our audience, it is taking clients along the currently still bumpy road of circularity. In this journey, there is little certainty on what to expect, which materials would be available, and what it will cost or look like. These uncertainties still pose challenges when transitioning towards a circular business model.

“A game changer was creating our workspace DB55“, says Sabrina van Dongen. This so-called ‘blended venue’ enabled Furnify together with D/DOCK to apply their vision and push the boundaries on what a circular space can be and look like. Sabrina’s most important learning is not to convince clients but inspire them with Furnify’s vision by creating an experience of how circular spaces can look and feel like. Ricco Fiorito has learned that it is easiest for customers to follow if he breaks the process down into small pieces. By making the circular process visible and tangible in the form of samples. He now highlights Cooloo’s journey from waste to product design by bringing process samples of each phase.

The Substitute is a community approach to change: uniting brands and designers to join forces through shared learnings and collaborative projects. Machteld Rijnten stresses the importance of marketing and data. “What is the big benefit you offer, and what is the impact you are creating?” The Substitute is currently developing a method that allows designers and architects to calculate the environmental impact of their materials. Stay tuned!

The main takeaways of ‘The Interior Intensive’? To not underestimate the importance of storytelling. Making your vision tangible is one of the strongest tools to create traction and inspire people to walk the road towards a circular economy together. An event that proved sharing is the sensible way forward.