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Identifying Circular Loops

1-2 days

Group activity

Conceptualise / Create


This activity introduces designing for a circular economy. The suggested references give background knowledge of why it is relevant to develop within a circular economy, as well as showing examples of how to address loops in lifecycle flows. The Butterfly Diagram by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2012) is an adaption of McDonough & Braungart’s (2002) Cradle to Cradle Protocol and can be used to understand and map resource flows building on technical and biological cycles. Examples of loop systems within the technical cycle are to: ‘reuse’, ‘refurbish’, ‘remanufacture’, ‘recycle’.

To get the most out of the valuable resources it takes to make garments, it is relevant to look at ways we can cultivate activity and keep clothes circulating in inner loops and to understand resource flows. Here you can consider which options a company might have at this moment, and what a company would be able to develop at a later stage.

Which potentials are there for concept development in fashion?

Links to Pillar(s)

Cultural - Economic - Environmental - Social


STEP 1: GROUPS (2-3 students) 

Ask students to select, research and analyse an existing fashion company and: 

  • Use the Butterfly Diagram to map existing product life cycles of the company through desktop research. Here printed copies of the Butterfly Diagram can be used as templates in the activity

  • Identify potentials for ‘inner circular loops’,

  • Visualise potential ideas by making a new product life circle

STEP 2: GROUPS (2-3 students) 

Ask students to develop design proposals for and within the new loops. These can either be sketch-based or prototyped hands-on.

This Activity Links To
  • Printed Butterfly Diagram templates.

  • Illustrations of product lifecycles.

  • Visual examples (sketches or prototypes) of ideas.

Suggested Readings

McDonough, William, & Michael Braungart 2002. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. North Point Press, United States.

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