Safe and Circular Material Choices

What materials should we use to create things?

Circular design encourages us to rethink business models, how we make products, and to consider the system surrounding them, but we also need to think about the materials we use. Whether it’s improving the safety of users or ensuring that resources can be used again and again - it is clear that materials matter.

Not all materials are fit for a circular economy. Some contain chemicals that are hazardous for humans or the environment. Additives are often unintentionally used or used for performance reasons - such as colouring, flexibility, or durability - but there are ways to design them out. If you can choose materials that are safe and circular, you can build a better offering for your users, while ensuring that the products and services you create fit within a circular economy.

Our goal is to help you as a designer make positive materials choices. The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, together with design professionals, have collaborated to develop practical resources to assist you in making these choices and designing for a circular economy.

This project was funded by the MAVA Foundation.


This advanced series of methods has been created for designers, entrepreneurs, and innovators to take their material choices integration to the next level. Together they show how to rethink the design process to integrate safe and circular principles from the very start.

Since choosing safe materials should be considered throughout the design process, rather than as an afterthought, each method corresponds to one of its key stages: understand, define, make, and release.

Start your safe and circular materials journey now by exploring one of the methods, or take a look at the Safe & Circular Strategy Cards:


3rd October 2018

In this webinar, we’ll ask design professionals and experts from industry to give their take on the role of designers in the development of safe & circular design. What skills and knowledge are required from designers to ensure materials are kept in use without causing waste and pollution?  

You’ll be able to ask questions on Twitter or through a comment thread during the live webinar.

Register your interest in attending the webinar and we’ll remind you to join.

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The Circular Design Guide is a collaboration between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and IDEO. To give your feedback, email us directly or join our linkedin group.

Copyright © Ellen MacArthur Foundation + IDEO 2017.