Manufacturers of all sizes are increasingly aware of the need to measure and reduce their carbon footprint. One innovative way to achieve this goal is to embrace the principles of the circular economy, which focuses on reducing waste and creating sustainable solutions.
By incorporating these principles into the design and refit of their workplaces, manufacturers can not only decrease their environmental impact, but also increase efficiency and potentially lower costs.
The circular economy is an economic model that seeks to minimise waste and maximise the value of resources through continuous cycles of use, recycling and recovery. This approach contrasts with the traditional linear economy, which follows a “take-make-waste” model.
By designing workplaces with the circular economy in mind, businesses can lower their carbon emissions and create more sustainable operations.
Key Principles for Circular Workplaces include:
- Design for disassembly and modularity: Designing office spaces and furniture that are easy to disassemble, repair, and reuse is essential in a circular economy. Modularity ensures that individual components can be replaced or upgraded without discarding the entire unit, thus reducing waste.
- Use of sustainable materials: Incorporating recycled, recyclable, or biodegradable materials into office design reduces the environmental impact and supports the circular economy. This can include using reclaimed wood, recycled metals, or bioplastics.
- Energy efficiency: Implementing energy-efficient technologies, such as LED lighting and smart thermostats, can significantly reduce a company's carbon footprint. Additionally, designing office spaces to maximise natural light and ventilation can contribute to decreased energy consumption.
- Product-as-a-service models: By shifting from a product ownership model to a product-as-a-service model, companies can reduce waste and extend the life of office assets. For example, leasing furniture, equipment, and appliances allows for easier repairs, upgrades, and returns when no longer needed.
One such Welsh manufacturer Ministry of Furniture, is calling on companies to plan further ahead and think outside the box when redesigning their workplaces – as many have post-COVID as they embrace hybrid and more collaborative working models and the changing needs of employees.
The Neath based business is urging businesses to consider remanufacturing and upcycling existing furniture, something that epitomises the principles of a circular economy. For example, old desks can be repurposed as cupboards and storage units or as partitions or bespoke features. As well as often saving money and reducing a company’s carbon footprint, such features can also preserve aspects of a company’s heritage and history.
Graham Hirst, Managing Director of Ministry of Furniture, commented:
“Circularity should always be central to the whole lifespan of an office: in how it is designed, built, used – and reimagined and redesigned in the future. Working in this way, the emphasis should be on looking to design out waste in every possible way and at every stage. The lifecycle of materials must be calculated into every decision from the start.
“Working in this way can be incredibly exciting. Here at Ministry, we love to consider what can be reused: upcycled and remanufactured. Not only can this save money and reduce a company’s carbon footprint, it can also provide an opportunity to preserve elements of a company’s heritage in a way that can form a strong link to the past.”
Ministry of Furniture is the only manufacturer (and remanufacturer) of fitted furniture in Wales, meaning that its proximity to clients also enhances the green credentials of such projects by reducing associated transport and fuel costs. Every project is designed, manufactured (or remanufactured) and installed by local people working from its premises in Wales.