Sustainable Consumption & The Circular Economy

Why do we consume? Should we feel bad about it? Do we need to? Could we stop it? …How?

These are some of the questions most of us ask ourselves every now and then. In this theme we will look in to the main driver of our economy – consumption.

To keep the economic wheels running; we take, we make and we waste resources at a historical unprecedented rate. We all know the sad results of this unhealthy use of nature (exploitation of water, land, metals, minerals etc) and the consequences of everything from vast amounts of greenhouse gas emissions to plastic and chemical pollution. But we only have one finite planet, floating in space, months of travel to the next one and 4.2 lights years away from the nearest star. This whole spiral of consumption is unsustainable in every sense of the word! Thus, we must learn to live within our means and take care of the nature (we have left).

However, we humans are indeed technological beings and we need materials, as well as nutrients, to function. The technologies we create are also part of what makes us human – giving us the ability to plan and manipulate our physical reality. Our modern life is filled with stuff – just think of the computer, tablet or smartphone you are reading on at this very moment. It would be difficult to imagine a life without.

For decades we have heard the same story about how to limit our consumption, how to buy the “right” stuff and how to be a green consumer. This should have led us on the way to ‘the sustainable society’, but never did – a story that is full of myths and shared misconceptions of what is and what is not truly sustainable.

The good news is that a trend is emerging, based on the fundamental principles of natural eco-systems. We know that every raw material, we use to make these things, is only borrowed from nature – from the nutrients in our food, the cotton in our clothes to the bricks in our buildings. Treating the materials as food for new products, through reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling operations we might have a chance to reverse our unsustainable ways – this is also called the transition to a circular economy. The information age has opened new possibilities and new sustainable business models, based on circular principles for resource management, are here to stay. Therefore, in the coming years we will see a disruption of the whole concept of consumption and maybe start seeing ourselves as users instead of consumers.


This theme will cover questions like:

  • How can we create sustainable production and consumption systems that – based on the principles of circular economy – are minimising toxic emissions, carbon pollution and resource waste, and growing symbiotic business models for the benefit of all?

The plenary sessions related to this theme will be led by Kate Power  – on The Myths of Sustainable Consumption, and Tina Sig Olesen on Potentials in the Circular Economy. Kate Power will lead the Solution Labs Saturday, while Tina  Sig Olesen will lead the Solution Labs Sunday. Both keynote speakers will be present both days.


If you like to know more we recommend the following:

Power, K. (2013): Myths of Sustainable Consumption

Full report –

Botsman, R. (2010): The Case for Collaborative Consumption

Re-think Progress (2011): The Circular Economy

Jackson, T. (2012): Economics of a Circular Economy

Re-imagining Business (2011): The Transition to the Circular Economy

Vestergaard, M.V. (2014): Omstillingen til en cirkulær økonomi – goddag til brugeren, farvel til forbrugeren

Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2012-14): Circular Economy – reports vol. 1-3

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