Promoting eco-design in the Baltic Sea Region

The EU-funded EcoDesign Circle project set out to ensure that consumer goods are designed and produced to limit their environmental impact. Design centres from six countries in the Baltic Sea Region worked with environmental experts to help SMEs minimise the environmental impact of their products, while maximising the benefits.

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The opening of the travelling exhibition “rECOconsider design” in Kaunas, Lithuania, as part of the Roadshow Ecodesign, held as part of  the EcoDesign Circle project. ©Lithuanian Design Forum The opening of the travelling exhibition “rECOconsider design” in Kaunas, Lithuania, as part of the Roadshow Ecodesign, held as part of the EcoDesign Circle project. ©Lithuanian Design Forum

" We believe that circular economy and eco-design are ideas worth spreading. The most interesting aspect for us is the position of designers and their role in the life of products. At the design stage, basic decisions regarding the type of material or energy input can minimise the overall environmental impact of a product or service. We are happy to share our discovered examples of companies taking advantage of using the eco-design related solutions. "

Karolina Skrzypik, Pomeranian Science and Technology Park | Design Centre, Poland; Project Coordinator and EcoDesign Circle Project Partner

To help these SMEs contribute to a circular economy, the EcoDesign Circle project partners developed a cooperative structure of design centres and companies.

Sprinting towards a more circular economy

The project carried out constructive audits and organised interactive workshops with several SMEs in the region to pinpoint opportunities for circular design within each company, under the name EcoDesign Sprint. In total, six three-day training programs were organised throughout the region, all of them led by a circular economy coach and a multidisciplinary team of experts. 

Through these programs, 13 eco-designed product prototypes and service concepts were successfully developed. At least one concept per SME was developed for short-term realisation, while other prototypes were set up with long-term ambitions and required more intensive work.

The audit-sprint methodology was published and made available in the form of two manuals and an accompanying study to help other companies contribute to a circular economy. This method is an example of how the project succeeded in translating the know-how of environmental scientists into practice for companies and designers.

Reconsidering eco-design

The EcoDesign Circle consortium developed educational and informational offers for enterprises, designers and design lecturers to illustrate the methods and benefits of using eco-design in real life. In a two-day EcoDesign Learning Factory training, participants were taught to develop a circular system and business model for a product.

The project developed an online sustainability guide to serve as an entry point to circular design. Furthermore, 21 short videos showcasing eco-design methods and products in practice were created as a module for design training and relevant classes.

The project organised a travelling exhibition of 30 innovative and inspiring ideas and products, called ‘rECOnsider design’, to raise awareness of the opportunities of circular economy.

Combined, over 20 000 visitors at events in Poland, Germany, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and Sweden were encouraged to reconsider their habits and products usages and reduce unnecessary environmental impact.

Despite their relevance, both eco-design and circular economy principles are only sparsely applied across Europe and their potential for SMEs remains largely untapped. SMEs are focused predominantly on traditional linear business models and do not sufficiently consider the environmental dimension of product design.

About 80 % of the environmental impact of a product is determined during the design phase. Eco-design promotes more circular, durable, easy-to-maintain and recyclable products. 

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “EcoDesign Circle - Ecodesign as Driver of Innovation in the Baltic Sea Region” is EUR 2 010 000, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 1 540 000 through the “Interreg Baltic Sea Region” Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Jobs, growth and investment”.


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