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Building the foundations of a circular economy with education and young people  

We met passionate climate ambassadors, looking to create a powerful network of young people that campaign for a more equitable and just transition. The ambassadors we met during the programme were empowered and equipped with the knowledge and tools to design for planet. We then discovered organisations with socially driven business models based on retrofitting historic buildings whilst training apprentices from the local area. 

Climate action networks 

Social good 

  • Retrofitting historic buildings and upskilling the labour force with traditional stonemasonry techniques (The Ridge, Dunbar, Scotland).  

Spaces to learn practical skills with others

We explored spaces that encouraged tinkering, fixing, growing and sharing. These spaces are propped up and driven by the surrounding community – they are appropriate to context. These spaces are interesting when framed in the context of how they can be seen as a new typology for community centres. These spaces could contain libraries, makerspaces, recycling points that provide the opportunity to learn about sustainability, repairability, and even support workshops. We see opportunity for these kinds of circular hubs to be embedded in villages, towns and cities across the UK.  

Circular hubs  

Repair shops & networks 

  • A repair network making borrowing as buying bread (Benthyg Cymru, Cardiff, Wales). 
  • A borrow bus servicing rural communities in North Wales (Resource Wales and the Borrow Bus, Denbighshire, Wales). 
  • Utilising expertise and support from product design students to breathe new life into broken and disregarded furniture in Bolton (Bolton at Home and Bolton University, England). 

Energy networks powered by people 

Community energy consists of groups of dwellings, public buildings or solar farms that group together to create a network. This collects energy through its relevant source for those connected to the network – e.g., wind or solar. We found communities across the UK creating their own narratives to convey the urgent need to shift-away from carbon-centric models and investigate what community energy networks could look like.  

  • Empowering landlords to retrofit housing stock to become more energy efficient (Swansea City Council, Wales).
  • Creating one of England’s biggest community energy networks (West Sussex, Sussex, England).  

Nature-based solutions creating places that support a regenerative world for all 

What if our ex-industrial sites (such as quarries) were transformed to become wetlands with ample opportunity for walking and cycling, or into reservoirs that encouraged the growth of local flora and fauna? We found examples of inspiring initiatives across the UK that looked to co-design ex-industrial sites into places that regenerate the land, increase biodiversity, encourage sustainable living, establish better connection to nature and bring people together.  

  • Transforming a quarry into a nature reserve (Globe Foundation, Uttoxeter, England). 
  • Wild swimming ponds for aquatic communities (East London Waterworks Park, London, England). 
  • Visions for a flexible market that serves fresh produce at an affordable price (Acorn Farm, Derry City & Strabane, Ireland). 
  • Connecting people to create meaningful and accessible public space (Hounslow Council, London, England).  
  • Flood mitigation through nature-based solutions in Golspie (Highlands Council, Scotland). 

Growing up producing food 

We found people passionate about productive spaces that bring communities together around the growing, sharing and cooking of food. Whilst food for the last decades has been designed out of our living spaces, we found projects campaigning to embed food back into our everyday lives, so that we develop a greater relationship with our bodies, our health, how we cook and eat in the future.