If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.”  – Pete Seeger

The Circular Economy (CE) in practice centres on the idea of rethinking our approach to how we consume. Because our resources are finite – even the sun – the way we use them plays a huge role in ensuring we have enough to meet future needs.

The CE promotes Rethinking. Refusing. Redesigning. with the aim to divert our production and consumption away from take, make, waste towards reducing, reusing recycling.

Most materials that we use; paper, wood, metal and even plastic, come from natural resources. The more of these resources we extract (invariably to produce items that end up in the bin!) the more extreme measures we take to extract materials and mineral deposits – like deep-ocean drilling and explosive-mining.

The obvious answer might seem like recycling more. However recycling uses huge volumes of energy. Until our grid is 100% renewable, recycling perpetuates fossil fuel usage and single-use products.

The Circular Economy explores a number of steps before we use recycling:

  • Reducing how much is needed in the first instance
  • Reusing or repurposing goods or products, and
  • Repairing or refurbishing something old or damaged to give it a new lease of life.


Event design will need to take these practices into account to produce Circular Events – our only viable event future!

Get ideas for taking action below or benchmark your progress.

What we can do...

1. Circular design

Designing for reuse and reusing what is already available (whether that’s an asset in storage, or hiring something) are the first step towards delivering a circular event.

Spend some time with your supply chain and (storage unit!) in the early design stages to ascertain what could be reused or refurbished before opting for virgin materials as first point of call.

2. Inventory your assets and use your teams

A well-maintained inventory makes it easy for staff to allocate existing goods into event designs.

Design teams should have access to a visual database of assets to ensure they can design-out new and design-in reused assets.

Project coordinators and production assistants often know what is and isn’t available to hire, or what is and isn’t in storage. They can be an invaluable resource in planning resource efficient events.

3. Good storage

An inventory is only as good as the storage solution!

Making sure stored assets are easily accessible and well labelled will make reusing and storage for re-use much easier.

Check out solutions for storage from Event Cycle.

4. Design out single use items

Regardless of whether an item can be used more than once, if reuse can’t be guaranteed, it should still be considered a single-use asset.

For example, many SWAG items like reusable coffee cups, tote bags and water bottles are already owned by attendees. They are often more energy intensive to produce than traditional single-use items, so if you can’t guarantee that they’ll be used again, they should be avoided.

Opt for digital-solutions like product discounts, community-only assets, Spotify playlists or give people an option to plant a tree or donate to a charity.

5. Ethical sourcing and certified products

Employing ethical sourcing from the beginning sets a precedent for the whole event. From wood to paper to metal to recyclable plastics, ask for eco-certifications like FSC, PEFC, cradle2cradle and other similar credentials.

By embedding this into team cultures from the start of a project, we can put all the brilliant problem solving brains to work, finding more opportunities along the way to make sustainable choices.

6. Smart material choices

The materials we choose impact the type of waste we produce. A recyclable material is only recyclable if a waste contractor accepts it and processes it as recycling, otherwise it will go to landfill or be incinerated for energy.

The best approach in the short term is to design out waste and design for the waste streams available.

Speak to your venue, waste contractor or suppliers about what their waste streams are and purchase single-use assets accordingly.

7. Design in donation 

Where an asset cannot be stored for reuse, plan in solutions for onward life, like re-use in stores or offices, or as donations to local community groups.

Organisations like Event Cycle connect no-longer needed items with charities in need.

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