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Mini Beee’s approach to circular design

Mini Beee’s approach to circular design

At Mini Beee we aim to build our furniture in a way that it fits the principles of a circular economy. Our ultimate goal is to create a profoundly sustainable production process, which utilises innovative thinking and a selfless, forward-thinking approach to design. 

As you will probably know already, sustainability is a huge part of what we do. At Mini Beee, we consider every single element of our process in minute detail, and think about how we can make it more environmentally friendly. 


This is because, quite simply, we believe that taking care of the preservation of the planet is one of the most important jobs that we all have. 


The natural world has formed a huge part of our own childhood, and it will continue to shape the play, fun and development of many generations to come. But, right now, it needs our help. 


We are in no way ignorant of the fact that we are producers ourselves. So, if we don’t do our job right, we could become part of the problem. That’s why we’re so conscious of what we make and how we make it - we want to be a part of the eco-conscious producers who work across the world, and make their mark on it in a positive way.


In a previous blog, we shared the concept of circular design with you. But in this blog post, we want to take it one step further. Here, we’ll be speaking to one of Mini Beee’s co-founders about the nitty gritty of circular design, and its place in our production process.  


Thinking about eco-consciousness 


Our ultimate goal is to create a profoundly sustainable production process, which utilises innovative thinking and a selfless, forward-thinking approach to design. 


And (not to toot our own horn), but we believe we can achieve that aspiration. We keep our production process as sustainable as possible by keeping ourselves informed, learning about the latest developments, and applying the ideas formed by the globe’s great eco-conscious thinkers. 


A key environmental production principle, which has received a lot of attention lately, is circular design. 


We always ensure that we are read-up on these big topics, and the concept of circular design was one which particularly interested us. 


Many elements of our process were already in-line with circular design, but we wanted to use this intelligent concept to take the sustainability of our company to the next level. 


We spoke to Marjolein, one of Mini Beee’s co-founders, about the topic of circular design, and how it has shaped Mini Beee’s production. She shared her thoughts on why it was so important, and how the concept is implemented across Mini Beee’s entire product range.  

Applying circular design - starting from the very beginning


In order to implement circular design, the production process needs to be analysed from every possible angle. That includes the very first step - the design of the products. 


Design is something that we see every single day. 


Everything around us has been designed by someone: the buildings we live in, our furniture, our clothes, our food, and so on. 


To help us understand this on its full scale, The Montreal Design Declaration defines design as “the application of intent: the process through which we create the material, spatial, visual and experiential environments in a world made ever more malleable by advances in technology and materials, and increasingly vulnerable to the effects of unleashed global development.”


In other words, design is how we create products, services and systems. It is the mechanism by which we shape the (material) environment around us to meet our needs and desires. 


And you can see how, in Mini Beee’s processes, every step of the process is assessed in this way. 


“When we design our Mini Beee furniture, or choose a supplier to work with, we have to make important decisions that impact our whole business process. We have to consider how it is manufactured, how it is used, and what happens when it is no longer needed or wanted. 


“This is so important to us because, if they have undesirable consequences in the future, it is exceedingly difficult to go back and undo the effects of those decisions.”


Circular VS Linear design 


The next big thing in the world of design is circular. 

The first principle of a circular economy lies in reconsidering the way that we approach design, in order to “design out waste and pollution.”


However, the reality is that today, most things are still designed to fit the linear model. At Mini Beee, this means that when we build our furniture, almost everything we do needs to be well thought out or redesigned entirely, in order to fit the principles of a circular economy.


As Marjolein says: 


“Design is a crucial part of the circular economy. To be able to be circular, we have to rethink everything - not only the design of our products, but also our business model. This means we have to work within the options that the linear economy we live in offers us, without losing sight of our circular way of doing our business. The role of design in creating our circular business is huge. That is where it all starts.” 


In our minds, settling with our current successes is not good enough. For the Mini Beee design approach, in order to keep being at the top of the sustainability game, we need to keep addressing and re-addressing our methods. 


“Designing our furniture is an ongoing process that is never really finished. We are constantly looking for better materials and are refining our production process. We are constantly exploring what we can do better at the end of a product life cycle - how we can recycle even better, reuse the product or material or reduce our waste.”


It is this mindset which fuels our recycle and reuse programme. 


The Mini Beee recycle and reuse programme 

We are immensely proud of this innovative scheme. We have created a programme which successfully balances user needs with circular awareness, in a cycle which allows our materials to constantly be regenerated into new, special products. 


“Traditional design emphasizes the needs of the end user. The producer's revenue model is linear, in terms of production, use, waste, then the introduction of a new model, and the repeated cycle of use, waste, etc. We want to design for the circular economy, and so therefore, we have to look much broader, not only at the user, but also at the system in which the design will exist. 


“This means we want to understand the impact of our design. That's why we created feedback loops; to help identify and address the unintended consequences of our design decisions. At every stage of the design process, we have to zoom in on the user and zoom out to see the impact of our furniture on the environment. Finding the right balance here is key.”


In the Mini Beee Reuse, Recycle and Reduce programme, we give the raw materials that we use a new life, over and over and over again. 


This works so well for us because all our furniture is suitable for children between 3 and 12 years old. Although it may be hard to admit, we know that there will come a time when your little one is no longer a little one, and the adolescent will instead start to plant their long arms and legs on an adult garden set. 


After years of intensive use, your kids will have grown out of their Mini Beee garden furniture, but it won’t be in the same condition that you first bought it. These little scuffs and scratches will make it more difficult to give the piece to someone else, and the last thing anyone wants would be for the furnishing to go to waste.


So, to rectify this common problem, we offer the opportunity for our customers to return their furniture back to Mini Beee at the end of the product’s life cycle in your garden. 


When your little ones have grown out of their furniture, we will offer you a number of different options to choose from: 


1. We repair the furniture, make new cushions and send it back to you so that you can gift the furniture to someone else. This will give the product many more years of outdoor fun.


2. We repair the furniture, make new cushions and sell it as a second-life piece of furniture in our shop.


3. If the furniture cannot be repaired, we will disassemble it completely, clean everything and re-process the materials into new products. 


4. If the material is not suitable for reuse, we will recycle it. Gym mats are made from the foam in the cushions, the fabrics are washed and reworked into threads, the wood is used to make pallets, and so every element is carefully recycled. 


As you can see, this scheme is the ultimate in circular design. Not only have we carefully selected all of our materials and the way that we combine them at the start of the production process, but we have thought about the final destination of our products, to facilitate this cyclicality at every single point in our process. It’s the very embodiment of sustainable thinking. 


For more information about our Reuse, Recycle and Reduce programme, you can email us at [email protected] 


We’d be delighted to discuss the different options, costs and reimbursements in more detail with you.   


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