The Circulate Guide to Christmas 2016

With just a week to go until Christmas, you’re probably sorting the final preparations, making the finishing touches to the Christmas tree, or on the lookout for the last perfect gift for that special someone.

Thankfully, Circulate is coming to your rescue in your time of need. As we’ve seen throughout the year, the circular economy isn’t just a future vision of an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design. The circular framework also offers endless inspiration for innovative products and services, some of which could come in pretty handy over the festive period. The Circulate team have had their circular economy radar in operation over the past 12 months, and after scouring the 2016 archives, have come up with some top tips to get you through the next few weeks.

So read on for Circulate’s lighthearted guide to the festive season, revisiting some of our favourite articles from this year in the process.

Feast of innovation

Photo credit: Stinging Eyes via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

Bored of the same dry old turkey for your festive feast? No problem! Why not surprise the family with a nice platter of lab grown meat? Cellular agriculture was a hot topic in 2016, with startups like New Harvest exploring the benefits of bringing agriculture from the field to the lab . We’re just scratching the surface on this field, but synthetic milk, spiders silk and meat could arrive sooner than you think.

If for some reason you can’t find any lab-meat down at your supermarket, then bugs could be another option. We’ve heard in the past about how insects will become part of our diet, but in May Seb explored a different angle: how using insects in animal feed could be part of a resilient, regenerative food production system.

Lost the receipt?

We’ve all been there. You think you’ve chosen the perfect gift, but when the wrapping’s pulled back, disappointment stares you in the face. Don’t worry – with the growing interest in the circular economy, today’s business will surely have built the perfect reverse logistics network necessary to feed that product back into the value chain.

What’s more, if you’re an avid proponent of the circular economy, that product was probably leased anyway. We keep hearing about the growth in new models that favour access over ownership , and while it’s not the panacea some thought it would be, these behaviours continue to quietly infiltrate today’s business practices. Done properly, this could mean smarter use of resources and energy which is good news for manufacturers , and better service and more choice for customers too.

An Apple a day

Recent years have seen Apple products become a staple gift under Christmas trees across tech-hungry markets. While giving someone a piece of fruit on Christmas Day might not go down well, what if smartphones and other gadgets could take more than a brand name from nature, and actually grow on trees? Could the banana phone become a reality? In advance of his Disruptive Innovation Festival session on this topic, Chris Forman explored what might be possible when 3D printing and genetic engineering collide.

Fix up look sharp

Could Swedens policy changes stimulate a new era of repair?

Sometimes your budget can’t stretch far enough to get a brand spanking new gift for your loved one. If you’re savvy, you’ll get stuck into repair – a valuable inner loop of the circular economy. You could break out the toolbox yourself, but if you’re living in Sweden you might be better off seeing what’s out there for sale. With the Swedish government announcing tax breaks for product repairs in September, you could pick up a bargain. Sounds like a good idea? Well if you’re wondering what’s holding back repair and remanufacturing, we spoke with Nabil Nasr, Founder of the Centre for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery for the Circulate Podcast in April, in order to find out why it’s not yet happening at a wider scale.

Designated driver

For many, Christmas time = party time. But if you’re still wondering how you’ll get home after a few too many glasses of fizz, then a self-driving car is surely the way to go. In Circulate’s Future Of Mobility series , Ian Banks explored how mules, drones and other automated transport could do more than just change how we travel, and could help redefine our urban spaces. OK, so this tech might not be much help to most of us this year, but self-driving tech seems to be gathering apace. We’ve been following Uber’s AI trials ( and tribulations ) this year, and Alphabet’s recent Waymo announcement showed a very real product that could could make squabbling about the designated driver a thing of the past.

Peaking our interest

Finally, if you found yourself on Santa’s naughty list this year, you’re probably expecting a lump of coal in your stocking. Or maybe not, as Simon Michaux found in March. In The Implications of Peak Energy , Simon suggested that global coal extraction could peak in around four years, and while these sorts of figures are widely disputed, the theme here was that our linear, take-make-dispose economy could be in for a shock at some point down the line. So Mr. Claus should use that coal wisely.


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The Author

Joe Iles

Joe Iles

I'm Editor in Chief of Circulate and Digital Architect at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

When I'm not discussing the circular economy, I also love talking about digital media and online trends, memes, music, bad films and good beer.

You can find me on twitter @joeiles or email joe[at]

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