Saskia Goeres is the founder of Designed forLife Ltd., a new brand of sofas designed along circular economy principles. Saskia answers our circular business questions about her brand.
What’s your name and the name of your organisation?
My name is Saskia Goeres and I am the founder of Designed forLife Ltd.
Please describe your business in no more than 3 sentences.
We are a young start-up at the design phase to create products that facilitate the circular economy. Our first product is the Sofa forLife, a modular sofa design that enables repair, reuse and recycling. The user can update, replace and add components throughout their lifetime, which is cheaper than buying a whole new sofa and reduces waste.
How is your business circular?
Our design methodology analyses the product life cycle in detail and identifies various barriers to circular approaches, like sharing, repair, reuse and recycling. We then redesign the product in a way to eliminate these barriers.
To identify these main barriers for a sofa we talked to users, recycling centres and manufacturers. We discovered that a sofa’s decreased lifetime is caused by inability to clean, transport and repair conventional sofas. Additionally, often consumers just wanted a change in colour, sizing and style.
Furthermore, sofa designs use harmful fire retardants, unrecyclable plastic foams, glues and staples, making them impossible to recycle. Therefore, every single sofa ends up in landfill.
The innovative design of the sofa forlife makes it a better alternative for you and the environment. A Sofa forLife fits in the back of a small car, is washable and easily repaired, significantly increasing the lifetime of the sofa. The modular design allows the user to replace, update and add components throughout their lifetime. Instead of having to throw out and purchase a whole new sofa when users want a change in colour or style, they just buy a new component from our online store. This is cheaper for the user, reduces waste and is better for us as a business as we obtain continuous sales.
All the materials used are renewable, recyclable or biodegradable, therefore no part of the Sofa forLife ends up in landfill.
Why is it important to you to adopt a circular model?
Because we don’t have a choice. There is no way we can continue to mine resources and apply high-energy manufacturing processes, just to use the product for a short period of time before dumping it in landfill. This is an outdated economic system and I hope that our grandchildren will look back at this linear approach and shake their heads in disbelief.
Countries are slowly realizing that a circular economy is necessity to future proof their countries, which will lead to much stricter regulations regarding waste management. The earlier we can adopt our businesses to these future regulations, the better our market advantage.
This environmental necessity and a current market advantage are our reasons to adopt the circular economy.
What’s been the best thing for you about going circular?
We love the circular economy, because it highlights the fact that sustainability is not a compromise anymore; it is an advantage. We see the circular economy as a massive opportunity to redesign every product we own to be not only circular, but better for the user. To increase the lifetime of a product quality has to rise, user ownership has to improve, and the reasons for discard have to be reduced. A circular product will be modular, repairable, reusable and often customisable; overall, just better. Therefore, a sustainable future does not mean that we have to go back living in a cave, but it promises a world full of high quality products.
What’s been the biggest hurdle?
Sourcing sustainable materials is much harder than expected. Common material libraries don’t list or specify sustainable alternatives, and the evaluation of different requirements was difficult. Is it more sustainable if it is a local produce, if it uses less water or no chemicals? A global impartial Life Cycle Assessment tool to evaluate materials would be amazing to enable designers and engineers to make a more sustainable choice.
Furthermore, we couldn’t find any local manufacturers of the required sheet materials, which means we now have to order materials from abroad. This is not very circular and it makes it more difficult to check their sustainable standards. The local supply chains are not equipped for large scale manufacturing or a circular economy – yet.
In no more than 3 words, what motivates you to grow the Circular Economy?