Special Issue "Designing Products and Services for Circular Consumption"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Oskar Rexfelt
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Industrial and Materials Science, Chalmers University of Technology, Se-412 96 Gothenburg, Sweden
Dr. Anneli Selvefors
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Industrial and Materials Science, Chalmers University of Technology, Se-412 96 Gothenburg, Sweden

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

To support a transition to a circular economy, a growing number of designers and researchers are exploring different ways to circulate materials and products. The prevalent focus in the literature regarding design opportunities for circularity is framed from a production and business model point of view. The current framing results in a narrative that emphasises how companies can contribute to the circular economy by either providing products that last a long time and/or are fit for circular (re-) production flows, or by offering services based on new business models. Although innovations in production and business are essential for reducing resource throughput and for bringing about a transition to a circular economy, changes in consumption are equally important. Hence, there is a need to think beyond the current narrative of exploring opportunities for circularity solely from a production and business model point of view, and to also address opportunities from a user and consumption point of view.

In the linear consumption paradigm, people are often viewed as consumers who choose what to consume rather than how to consume. However, as a shift to a circular economy entails changes in how people consume, that is, changes in their consumption processes, it is central to expand our understanding of such processes. People decide when and how to obtain, use, not use, and rid themselves of products. Their decisions will determine whether products are consumed through circular consumption processes (such as renting, borrowing and buying second hand), whether they are extensively utilised, and whether they are passed on to a new user once the need for them has ceased. While people have many options to shift to circular consumption processes, these options are often considered impractical and challenging, as they require more time, effort and planning than today’s linear consumption processes. For instance, selling a product on the second-hand market requires more work and is more cumbersome than disposing of it as trash or storing it away. If linear instead of circular consumption processes are preferred by people, products will not be circulated and the transition to a circular economy will not gain momentum.

Insights regarding circular consumption processes can unveil new opportunities to design products and services for circular consumption. Services can, for example, be designed to take care of undesired activities that have been identified to hinder people from circulating products to others, such as transporting, sorting and cleaning products. Similarly, products can be designed to make circular consumption processes more practical by, for example, making it easier for people to inspect, clean, dismantle and reinstall them. Opportunities of this kind can complement commonly discussed design strategies that address, for example, durability, remanufacturing and recycling. Although such strategies are relevant for a transition to a circular economy, they are not the focus of this Special Issue.

In this Special Issue, people’s consumption processes and their implications for design take centre stage. We welcome contributions that address questions such as the following:

  • What practicalities are associated with circular consumption, and how do these affect everyday life?
  • What are the differences between linear and circular consumption (from a user perspective), and what opportunities and challenges do these differences entail for design?
  • How can design enable people to shift from linear to circular consumption?
  • What perspectives, competences, processes, methods and/or tools do designers need in order to design products and services fit for circular consumption?

Dr. Oskar Rexfelt
Dr. Anneli Selvefors
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • circular economy
  • circular consumption
  • product and service design
  • user perspective

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
Circular Economy Competencies for Design
Sustainability 2020, 12(4), 1561; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12041561 - 19 Feb 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1547
Abstract
This study addresses what competencies (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) designers need in order to successfully design products and services for a circular economy. Existing literature, though sparse, has identified a number of circular economy competencies for design. Yet, a coherent overview is lacking. [...] Read more.
This study addresses what competencies (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) designers need in order to successfully design products and services for a circular economy. Existing literature, though sparse, has identified a number of circular economy competencies for design. Yet, a coherent overview is lacking. To complement the competencies found in the literature with insights from practice, we conducted 18 semi-structured interviews with design professionals. Our study identifies seven circular economy competencies for design: (1) Circular Impact Assessment, (2) Design for Recovery, (3) Design for Multiple Use Cycles, (4) Circular Business Models, (5) Circular User Engagement, (6) Circular Economy Collaboration, and (7) Circular Economy Communication. We used a general sustainability competencies framework to categorize our findings. Interestingly, we did not find evidence of the Systems Thinking competency in practice, although in the literature it is mentioned as a relevant competency for design for a circular economy. In addition, we found that methods and tools are still largely lacking or in a premature stage of development. We conclude that design for a circular economy can be seen as an upcoming, independent field within the sustainability domain, and that requires a specific set of competencies, methods, and tools. Our overview of circular economy competencies for design can guide the development of relevant methods and tools, circular economy-based design curricula, and training programs in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Designing Products and Services for Circular Consumption)
Open AccessArticle
Design for Divestment in a Circular Economy: Stimulating Voluntary Return of Smartphones through Design
Sustainability 2020, 12(4), 1488; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12041488 - 17 Feb 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 871
Abstract
For the transition toward a circular economy, it is essential that products are returned for reuse, refurbishing or recycling. In order to address the lack of literature on the topic from a user perspective, this paper explores how users can be stimulated to [...] Read more.
For the transition toward a circular economy, it is essential that products are returned for reuse, refurbishing or recycling. In order to address the lack of literature on the topic from a user perspective, this paper explores how users can be stimulated to return used smartphones. Taking a Research through Design approach, we developed a novel set of “design for divestment” principles. Divestment is the process users experience when separating from a product. After introducing a conceptual model of divestment based on an extension of the Consumer Decision Process model by Blackwell, Engel, and Miniard, we describe seven empirical studies (i.e., design projects) into smartphone divestment. The studies explore factors that influence a successful divestment process. We report on a highly complex process with interrelated factors changing over time. While it is impossible to define a blueprint for an ideal divestment process, several patterns emerged such as the need to emotionally support users, to give them confidence regarding data security, and to provide information at the right moment. These unique insights contribute to consumer research (i.e., circular consumption); and by translating the insights to ten design principles for divestment, a novel contribution is made to the field of design research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Designing Products and Services for Circular Consumption)
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Open AccessArticle
An Exploration of the Value of Timeless Design Styles for the Consumer Acceptance of Refurbished Products
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 1213; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12031213 - 07 Feb 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1020
Abstract
The prior use and age make refurbished products a less desirable option because they are perceived to be of lower quality, to have a reduced performance and a less attractive appearance. This research investigates one strategy on how to enhance the appearance of [...] Read more.
The prior use and age make refurbished products a less desirable option because they are perceived to be of lower quality, to have a reduced performance and a less attractive appearance. This research investigates one strategy on how to enhance the appearance of refurbished products and thereby encourage circular consumption via refurbishment. In 21 in-depth interviews, we explore whether embodying refurbished products in a timeless design can serve as a potential strategy to influence consumer acceptance of refurbished products. Specifically, we examined two design styles that were proposed as timeless: the neo-retro design style, which evokes nostalgia and benefits from associations with the past, and the simplistic design style, that is independent of cultural or time-related cues. Our findings provided qualitative support that the neo-retro and the simplistic design styles can improve consumers’ evaluations of refurbished products. Both design styles were considered to be timeless and elicited favorable associations in consumers. While refurbished products, following a neo-retro design style, evoked positive associations with old products, such as feelings of nostalgia and the good quality of the past, simplistic products benefited from associations with durability and associations with high-quality brands. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Designing Products and Services for Circular Consumption)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Designing for Circularity—Addressing Product Design, Consumption Practices and Resource Flows in Domestic Kitchens
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 1006; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12031006 - 30 Jan 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 933
Abstract
Both the daily use and renewal of kitchens significantly contribute to the overall environmental impact of domestic buildings. To identify design implications related to circular consumption in domestic kitchens, 20 household interviews and one focus group session were performed, investigating how kitchens are [...] Read more.
Both the daily use and renewal of kitchens significantly contribute to the overall environmental impact of domestic buildings. To identify design implications related to circular consumption in domestic kitchens, 20 household interviews and one focus group session were performed, investigating how kitchens are used and transformed to meet households’ wants and needs. This study determined that daily kitchen resource use is greatly affected by kitchen design and that typical kitchen design generally does not promote sustainable resource use. Key factors that support minimization of resource use in the kitchen are the availability and planning of storage and workspaces. Furthermore, kitchens should be equipped with functions that enable households to use energy and water efficiently. Regarding kitchen renewal, various motivations that may initiate kitchen renovations can be summarised as follows: (1) Functional demands and changing needs, (2) aesthetic demands and changing trends, (3) obsolescence due to wear, and (4) linkage to another home renovation. This article concludes that a combination of design strategies is needed to reach a higher level of kitchen circularity. Moreover, these design strategies must be accompanied by circular business models and efforts to increase awareness of the environmental impact related to activities in and involving the kitchen. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Designing Products and Services for Circular Consumption)

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Open AccessDiscussion
Empowering Sustainable Consumption by Giving Back to Consumers the ‘Right to Repair’
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 850; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030850 - 23 Jan 2020
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 1855
Abstract
Industry has been considered a major actor regarding the actions and changes needed to achieve sustainable development. Different approximations to the topic have been developed to face the challenges of having a more responsible production of goods and services. These approximations include cleaner [...] Read more.
Industry has been considered a major actor regarding the actions and changes needed to achieve sustainable development. Different approximations to the topic have been developed to face the challenges of having a more responsible production of goods and services. These approximations include cleaner production, green design, ecodesign, eco efficiency, design for sustainable behavior, sustainable design, and more recently concepts like circular economies among many more. In all these approaches, the attention has been mainly on the production side while consumption has been tackled indirectly. The majority of laws and ordinances that have motivated the emergence of these approaches have traditionally been oriented to producers. However, an European Union (EU) directive launched in October 2019, called “right to repair”, could change this paradigm, empowering consumers by giving them more possibilities of repairing their products instead of discarding them. This paper presents a preliminary discussion about the effects this directive might have on how we consume products now and how we will consume them in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Designing Products and Services for Circular Consumption)
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