The Circular Economy: A Wealth of Flows

Chapter 1

Our economy needs to be reimagined. We are at the point now where people are starting to recognize this.

We can’t design in waste. There are many principles that can help people quantify and communicate these changes.

Some recommended reads from this chapter:

  • Reinventing Fire
  • Natural capitalism
  • Cradle to Cradle

Actions: Design in circular principles to your business processes.

Chapter 2

“All things happen through strife or necessity”.

We can fight to stay on an unpredictable linear economy or transition to the circular one where you can forecast and plan better and pay people what they are freaking worth!

Actions: Make a wages strategy for future employees

Chapter 3

Transition from consumer to user. Key principles of the circular economy: Design out waste, Build resilience through diversity, Work towards using energy from renewable sources, Think in systems, Think in cascades.

Ensure the business fits the economy.

Schools of thought:

Regenerative Design, Performance Economy, Cradle to Cradle (eliminate the concept of waste, power with renewable energy, celebrate diversity), Industrial Ecology, Biomimicry, Blue Economy, Permaculture

Great tips on how to flip from a linear to circular model in tables.

Recommended Authors/Experts: John T. Lyle, McDonough, Braungart and Stahel

-The Potential Substituting Manpower for Energy

Actions: Incorporate return and fix/replace model into business (Functional Service Economy). Look for ways to incorporate the principles into your business.

Chapter 4: Through the Macroscope

We cannot operate as if resources are endless.

Recommended Reads: The timeless way of building and A Pattern Language

Actions: You need to change your paradigm

Chapter 5: Consumer to User

There are inherent advantages to the circular economy. If we switched from taxing the renewable resource of labor and focused on taxing finite resources there would be a dramatic shift in our consumption habits.

"A circular economy is a about an intelligent use of human labour - job creation in a regional economy" The circular economy requires more labor.

Extending product-life through repair and reuse by switching from a linear mindset to stock management is the way from switching from consumers to user. All materials come with a backpack of mining waste and environmental impairment "so reuse, remarketing, and service-life extension activities preserve the backpacks of water and energy inputs and related GHG emissions in the manufacturing chain up to the point of sale which are embodied in the future goods"

"Caring is a key characteristic of managing stock". Offering product performance as a service guarantees resource security, but increases liability for product performance. Selling performance can look like selling light as a service or tools as a service to manufacturing companies.

Selling performance of goods is a concept that means to retain ownership of goods and embodied resources and internalize the cost of risk and waste. Incorporate value/weight (USD/KG) and labor/weight (man-hours/kg) into the price planning of goods.

Chapter 6

These systems can all work together if we tax appropriately and use the information technology at our disposal!

Chapter 7

Sharing economy looks promising as an option for complementary currencies!

There are a few concerning pieces of the exciting technologies. The end of cheap and easy credit, overproduction, expensive materials and energy are needed to make progress.

The future of sharing economy only works if there is smart design. We have to design for disassembly (repair, upgrade, disposal).

The sharing economy is about more than just Airbnb. Access>Ownership.

“Regulation is often just an attempt to compensate for, or limit the consequences of, poor and inadequate design”

“If there is no ‘away’ in circular economy - as in throwing things away - there is no exclusion either."

Chapter 8

The current manufacturing process uses too many resources.

3-D printing needs material consistency to ensure that products people are done with can flow right back into the economy easily.

Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM) will open the way for small to medium manufacturers.

Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) - "advanced industrial economy-in-a-box that can be replicated inexpensively anywhere in the world. The GVCS us like a Lego set of modular building blocks that work together - creating sustainable, regenerative, resilient communities"

Urban Mining will change the way we look at above ground resources.

Chapter 9: The Regenerative Biological Cycle

Thinking in natural systems is the key to Restorative biological cycle.


This part resonated with me. I think it is the ChemE in me that likes seeing the balance.

Critics of the approach are people who focus on the lack of defined outcomes or that is "just not the way we do things" (Did someone say fixed mindset?)

2 great case studies to show that complex, dynamic living ecosystems can be done well: more profitable, better product, more yield, but people have to get over the "why bother?" question. Additionally these systems lend themselves to smaller farms rather than the larger operations. This seems feasible at scale when you consider the increased focus on national grocery chains (Kroger) focus on the farmer that supplies the produce in the stores.

Idea: An opportunity would be for these national chains to supply the farmers with this broader symbiotic knowledge to test out some of these circular growing mechanisms. The retailer benefits because they get increased yields and better product and the farmer gets increased knowledge and potentially more money with the same amount of land.

Idea: Carbon Neutral Concept that focuses on land acquisition and saving areas from being developed.

Chapter 10: Education in a Changing World

Education is taught from a singular angle and needs to evolve to generate ideas that will continue to stimulate the circular economy.

Individual, consumption, and Guilt are the three factors of the current linear approach to the sustainable economy.


"You can never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

"If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don't bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking."

Imagination, Commitment and passion are needed to make the change and our schools don't teach that.

Skills needed in a circular economy:

  1. Systems Thinkers
  2. Pro-Active Independent Enquirers
  3. Self-Managers
  4. Creative Innovators
  5. Team workers, effective participators and empathetic colleagues
  6. Reflective practitioners committed to lifelong learning

People to look up: Bill Lucas/Guy Claxton/Howard Gardner/Nassim Taleb

Chapter 11: The Golden Thread: Systems, Digital and a Circular Economy

Feedback is essential.

The future is to focus on the user and not the product.

The golden thread will be the key to success!

People to look up: Kevin Kelly, Robin Chase, Doug Rushkoff

Chapter 12: Reason in an Age of Unreason

Limits in growth and scarcity will question democracies. Abundance and excess capacity is a pre-requisite for freedom and democracy.

To be truly disruptive, the acceleration of a transition towards a circular Economy encompasses the logic of a systems perspective, and works well at the micro as the macro scale.

Prices = Full Costs

Money = Medium of exchange

Diversity = Strength

People to look up: John Lyle, Herman Daly, Amory Lovins, Braungart