What can a designer do to change this mindset?
In the article of September I wrote that I think mindset is the biggest issue we have to overcome to change towards a circular economy. Thereby I mean changing from seeing the importance towards freeing time to make a change in your daily work. We are all busy keeping up with our duties that it is an extra effort to stop, reflect and act.
What can a designer do to change this mindset?
I am writing blog articles since January 2012. Cradle-to-cradle was the main subject, focussed on which materials and techniques make textile products suitable for biodegradation or recycling. Ones in a while it is good to take a broader view and see the shifts that are needed to make a circular economy possible, that is what I will do in this article.
Why a circular economy? Take a look at this (Dutch) video:
Habits...doing things in a particular way for so long that we forget to consider the possibility that something can be done differently. I think washing textiles at home is such a topic.
For consumers it is common to wash textiles with water and soap and occasionally dry-cleaning (with perc, a carcinogenic substance) or steaming. Why are textiles washed? To eliminate stains and odour. And even if these are not present the textiles are washed just to give the idea of cleanliness. I wrote an blog article in 2012 about this topic.
Washing with hot water and soap in a machine is harmful for the environment:
How do we get clean textiles?
Yes, you read it correctly: I changed the terminology, I am not talking about “ washing” because the end purpose is clean clothes and there are multiple ways to do this without water.
Techniques to clean textiles
Use different materials: wool can be easily aired or steamed. Or nano-enhanced textiles. (‘nano’ means really tiny. At the moment researchers don’t know much the effects of nano-materials on human and nature. Because the particles are so small they could enter our skin. This can be good (biodegradable materials that heal the body for example) but we do not know the long term effects of e.g. silver entering the body.
I experimented with 3D printing on textiles, to see how this change in flexibility could effect the material and how we could make prints biodegradable.
A few pros and cons of 3D printing for a circular economy
3D printed garments
In combination with a 3D bodyscan machine, clothing can be made directly in 3D instead of making a 3D shape (human body) in a 2D shape (pattern) to make it into a 3D shape (garment) again.
However it is currently difficult to create the same look and feel that textiles have in 3D. There are options as you can see:
To make 3D printing suitable for the circular economy you have to consider the biodegradability or recyclability of the material. Fusing different materials together might make it hard to recycle or biodegrade them.
Biodegradable materials that can be printed are for example PLA, Wood, bamboo, cork, chocolate, algae. When these are printed on biodegradable materials like organic cotton, linen, tencel, the full material can biodegrade. These materials are sometimes also recycable, for instance you can melt the chocolate and reuse it.
Recycable, not biodegradable, materials that can be printed are for example plastics, gold, silver, aluminum.
There is a difference between clothes and fashion. Clothes are the items we wear on our body, fashion (for me) is the moment in time where specific items are popular. This can be clothes, but also accessories, interior items, basically all products or even ways of behaving (like vegetable gardening)
Modular design fits well into the concept of the circular economy and I would like to bring your attention to the different possibilities.
When improving an existing design, making it more environment friendly by choosing different materials, this tool might come in handy. The ABC-X list, developed by EPEA.
In November I gave a Masterclass in Scotland for the Zero Waste Scotland program. Therefore I made a scheme that shows different routes of materials. I would like to share this with you. I defined three steps in the material loop: resource, biodegradability and recyclability.
A designer's dilemma:
Use the toxic substance that requires less energy or the nontoxic one that requires much more energy? [...] it is much easier to employ renewable energy in creating a product than it is to detoxify what has been toxified. 
A few months ago I found something fascinating in the field of materials. Programmable materials. Materials that can assemble themselves in the right conditions. How can you apply these materials in an eco-effective design?