Urban management of  assets and material flows

Circular Flows worksheet

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At its core, a circular economy means that products no longer have a life cycle with a beginning, middle, and end. Therefore, they contribute less waste and can actually add value to their ecosystem. When materials stop getting used, they go back into a useful cycle, hence the circular economy. Imagine what would happen if everything was designed to be restorative and regenerative? Design by IDEO and Ellen MacArthur Foundation, this canvas helps understand which of your material loops can be closed.


Based on the Butterfly diagram, this worksheet let you acquaint with the different ways of being circular. If you are working with an existing product or service, the diagram helps to understand its current position within the flows and make it Reused, Refurbished or Remanufactured.



Get acquainted with the different ways of being circular. At a glance, which of these loops feels most relevant or achievable for what you are designing? If you are working with an existing product or service, consider its current position within the flows.


Now dive deeper, and to through each loop as a lens for your new product or service. For each loop, ask yourself: “What would it take for this to work for my new product or service idea? And “What’s standing in my way from this working now?”


You may notice that there is a pattern as you go from the inner loops to the outer loops: the inner, tighter loops preserve more value and embedded energy (the inner loops are more in your control and the outer loops are less in your control):

  • Reused goes directly back to your users
  • Refurbished comes back to you (as the service provider)
  • Remanufactured goes through the manufacture process


Ask yourself, can you try to stay in the inner loops? What would I be able to affect right now? Once you feel like you have a starting point, try to the Circular Opportunities activity or the Service Flip which might prompt different ideas.