The Mission Statement for the Open Source Circular Economy Days is online! It was written by me and Lars, but it is based on the ideas, discussions and perspectives of the whole team (Erica, Sharon, Tim, Alice & others coming on board…)
What do we mean when we talk about an Open Source Circular Economy?
We share the vision of a circular economy. An idea for a truly sustainable future that works without waste, in symbiosis with our environment and resources.
A future where every product is designed for multiple cycles of use, and different material or manufacturing cycles are carefully aligned, so that the output of one process always feeds the input of another. Rather than seeing emissions, manufacturing byproducts, or damaged and unwanted goods as ‘waste’, in the circular economy they become raw material, nutrients for a new production cycle.
Right now we have a linear system – we take resources out of the ground, and transform them into (often hazardous) waste. We consume and destroy our own planet faster than it can possibly recover. We’ve known about these problems for decades and despite increasing public awareness we are still nowhere near comprehensive solutions. Current ‘green’ approaches merely act as an ineffective brake on this destructive trajectory.
A more radical shift is needed – in how we collaborate, and how we design, produce and distribute our products and the services around them.
One way to illustrate the circular economy is to think of cycles in the natural world.
A simple representation might be a seed, which grows in nutritious topsoil, becoming a strong adult tree – its body will eventually decompose to become part of the nutrient source for more trees to grow.
But this paints too tidy a picture – living organisms have developed a vibrant, diverse ecosystem over billions of years, and it doesn’t work in tidy closed loops. There are thousands of processes occurring in this simple picture – life cycles of bacteria, insects, and fungi, weather patterns, fruiting and pollination, competition with other organisms – the tree is constantly interacting with these systems and processes, all with their own inputs and outputs, and it’s the combination of all of them which produces a sustainable ecosystem.
Similarly, when we think about design and manufacturing, it’s extremely unlikely that individual companies can construct perfect processes in complete isolation, where the components of just two or three elegantly designed products feed each other’s production cycles in a balanced, neatly closed loop. This is an immensely difficult, illogical way of designing a circular economy.
We need to look further afield, for outsider perspectives.
We need collaboration and open standards across countries and industries.
We need transparency in manufacturing processes and material production.
We need products that can be understood, taken apart and repaired. We need to share knowledge of how resources flow throughout our system.
And when good solutions are developed, we need to be able to use them, to build upon them, and to improve them, for the benefit of our planet and our society.
We need an open source approach to the circular economy!
Our ecological problems are shared by all of us – any solutions need to be shared too.
Open source means publishing how things are made, such as a recipe, software code, production data, or design files so that anyone can study, use, and build upon this information. This often occurs through decentralized and distributed collaboration: diverse groups discussing project ideas, giving feedback, fixing bugs, prototyping solutions and building useful, customisable software, hardware, tools and culture.
From the Free/Libre Open Source Software underlying most of the internet to Wikipedia and Open Street Map, we can see that such distributed collaboration can do great things.
We can use the tools and techniques developed in this tradition to work together in an international and interdisciplinary way. Following success in the world of software, the open source model has now grown into an ever-widening movement, from open source hardware, open design, and open data to open government.
We believe that this way of collaboration – the open source way – and the transparency and freedom it entails, is the key and only way to make a highly diverse, complex and rapidly developing economy work in cycles.
During the Open Source Circular Economy Days we’ll be taking a holistic approach to understanding how different systems can interact, we’ll get to grips with the challenges we’re facing, we’ll share experience and inspiration openly, and we’ll start to build an open source circular economy.