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Circular Economy Introduction For Hackers & Activists


  • 36th Chaos Communication Congress, Leipzig, 27. December 2019
  • Extinction Rebellion Berlin, Berlin, January 2019


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thanks for the invitation! My name is Lars Zimmermann. I am a designer, artist and activist running a studio for Open Design and activism called Mifactori and have next to this a lot of other projects mostly on Circularity (Circular Design) and Open Source. And I am happy to give you an introduction to Circular Economy and ways you can work with it today.


1. Why? Because 40% of our CO2 emissions come from making stuff

Yes. 40% is just consumption (Source 2, Mirror). It is not food, not housing, not traveling, not construction. It is just stuff. Your smartphones, your pants, your toys, your books and so on.

So here is a lot to gain! This is what Circularity or Circular Economy or Circular Design can help with.


2. Circular Economy (Kreislaufwirtschaft)

Circular Economy is today the most popular rebrand for a set of ideas that is around for a long time and was/is discussed under different names (regenerative design, industrial symbiosis, blue economy, Kreislaufwirtschaft, ecological design and others).

It is mostly about the design of products and services and about including in your design thoughts about the afterlife and environmental impact of your services and products. With this circular economy of course also thinks a lot about the distribution and the consumption patterns. Work with nature and planet and not against it.

Circular Economy | Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Definition | Diagram | Diagramm Mirror 

Cradle to Cradle

Explanation 1 | Explanation 2

Example: Business Models for a Circular Washing Machine | Mirror 1 (PDF) | Mirror 2 (HTML as ZIP)


What we say: Open Source Circular Economy!  + Pre- & Post-Klimawandel-Design 

Open Source Circular Economy Days | Video OSCE | Theory @Mifactori)


3. Circularity = Sustainability?

Is Circularity necessarily about sustainability? No. Sometimes it is even the opposite.

I’ve seen a lot of ideas from the world of Circular Economy that will even increase the consumption and destruction of our planet. Just because in runs in circles does not mean it is sustainable. (“You can sell a new washing machine every year because the old one gets recycled.” … But recycling is a very dirty and resource and energy intense process!)

Cradle to cradles famous spin is that with products like that we can keep consuming as we do today. But they don’t talk about energy! And while in the very very long run this vision might theoretically work out (when all energy is produced green) it might give us for today and tomorrow the wrong ideas!

Sustainability is complex. There are many parameters to think about.

But it is true! The design strategies connected to circularity can help to lower your carbon footprint. So let’s have a look at them.


4. Circular Design Principles

Let’s have a look at some design principles and discuss them briefly:

Make Circularity PosterMirror at the OSCEdays Forum 

More: Circular Design Introduction for Designers (German)


5. Collaboration of Open Source Hardware & Open Design

Why Open Source looks like the potential key to a sustainable, post climate change, circular economy? Let’s have a look:

OSCEdays Mission Statement (with Video)

More: Introduction to Open Source Hardware (German)

Open Hardware/Open Design and Circular Products share a lot of the same ideas, problems and approaches! For example simplicity! More on this you can find at the Mifactori-Website. 

New! Keep your eyes open! There is a DIN SPEC on Open Hardware coming! It will be the first DIN SPEC under a creative commons license (CC-BY-SA) and freely available.


6. DIY Circularity 1: Pre-Use

Circular Economy is frustrating because it says: Wait for the big boys. They have to implement it first, then you can buy it.

But there are simple things you can do. You can live a circular lifestyle already today. There are a lot of interesting approaches to this (the most famous and elaborated one is Zero Waste). And here is another I’d like to show you wich can help you a lot for your activism at Extinction Rebellion. 

Pre-Use Introduction 

Examples: Examples on Flickr | Category | @Home

More: Pre-Use Workshop


7. DIY Circularity 2: Hack Your City Circular!

This might be especially interesting for your activism! Don’t just block. Try more to block with alternative ideas:

City Hacking Introduction & Examples

More? City Hacking Category @Mifactori 


8. Hacking Modularity (Design Research)

→ ARTICLE: Don’t invent a new modular system try to use (hack into) an existing one.

More: Talk about Hacking Modularity


→ ARTICLE – M☉odularize It!

Quick Summary: The project proposes a rating system for modular solutions. The rating system includes questions like how common is something, how open, how sustainable to produce, how hackable, how upcycling friendly, how universal and more. The higher the score the better it is for sustainable circularity and the more you can recommend it to designers! And you can increase the rating of a system through hacking!

The project is in the phase of an open funding application right now. But I am happy if you start to work with it and its suggestions right now. Ping me if you like.

The higher a solution is rated the more it can be recommended to be used in your designs.

 DOCUMENT: Criteria to rate modular solutions Version 0.1 .


9. Thank You!

UPCOMING! What Is Open Design? 

Thank you for your work and attention. More you can find on my and our websites and news sources.

Sign up to our Newsletter.

Visit and share our pages – MifactoriLars ZimmermannOpen Circularity

Follow us on Social Media (we are on a lot of channels for example as @mifactori on instagram or @bricktick on twitter.)

Reach out to me personally:


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