In Season 5 of the HappyPorch Radio Podcast, we dive into the fascinating, important, and exciting topic of the Circular Economy! 

This episode serves as an introduction to the season, a glossary of terms, and a chance for us to prepare ourselves and listeners for what is to come. We are really excited about the conversations we will be having in the coming weeks and today Barry and Emily air out their initial thoughts on the subject as well as try to give some concise definitions of what the phrase 'Circular Economy' can mean. 

We also give some attention to the connotations it has for us, underlining the positivity and inspiration contained in its philosophy. For us the Circular Economy thinking is about creativity and opportunity.

This season is a call to action. Despite, or perhaps because of, the environmental problems facing the world currently, we have a responsibility to get involved in solutions. 

So what is the "Circular Economy"?

The circular economy describes an approach to production and consumption that is less linear than the dominant contemporary economic model. We weigh-in on the areas that stand out for us; thinking about waste as well as product, and outcomes beyond the immediate consumables and the short-term value.

So for all this, join us today and we look forward to having you around for this exciting season of the podcast!

Emily Swaddle

Emily Swaddle photo


Emily Swaddle is the co-host for season 5 of HPR.

Sidestepping the traditional dichotomy, Emily is equal parts active listener and enthusiastic chatterbox. She was drawn to this season by her love of podcasts, her passion for environmental justice and her search for meaningful conversation in a small-talk world. 

Having worked in community building for climate action, Emily is no stranger to big dreams of a circular economy and she is excited to discover what gems of innovation await us in season 5. Her new professional venture sees her flexing her active listening muscles as a personal development coach and facilitator.



Barry O'Kane

Photo of Barry O'Kane

Barry is the host of HappyPorchRadio.

Barry has been in the web development business since 1999. He now runs his own specialist agency providing strategy, technology and custom software development for the Circular Economy.

“The value is there whether we see it or not, and it’s about recognising the value or just reframing the way we’re looking at this waste.” — @ESwaddle

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Tune in to find out:


  • Emily's passion for environmental issues, the circular economy, and meaningful conversation
  • A brief definition of the term 'circular economy'.
  • The idea of maintaining and appreciating value that is produced.
  • Stopping the value leakage at a multitude of points — creative and inventive solutions.
  • The modern awareness of the environmental impact of all of our actions.
  • A hopeful way to look at the dire situation in which we find ourselves as a species.
  • Joining the dots between software, digital projects and the circular economy philosophy.
  • Our hopes for Season 5; raising awareness and the idea of the present opportunity.
  • Topics and guests to be featured in the forthcoming episodes!
  • Starting the conversation and inspiring further research into this huge and important topic.

“The current economic system is very linear, you dig something up, you take it, you make stuff out of that, in multiple complex ways, you use that thing and then you throw it away.” There has got to be a better way. — @barryokane

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"The circular economy for me is an economic system, a global system in which we care about what comes out of our production system as well as what goes into it.” — @ESwaddle

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Full Transcript for this episode:

Barry O'Kane 0:05
Hello, it's great to be back for another season of HappyPorch Radio. This season, we are focusing on the circular economy, and in particular the role of software and digital. This episode is an introduction and we get to meet my wonderful co host, Emily, and we talk about what the circular economy is, and why it's our focus for this season. As always, you can find the show notes, links, and much, much more at HappyPorchRadio.com. So as seems to be becoming my catchphrase for these introductions, without any further ado, let's meet Emily.

Emily Swaddle 0:40
Hi, Barry. Thanks for having me, lovely to be here. I'm excited to start season five.

Barry O'Kane 0:45
Yeah, it should be really fun. So let's just set the scene a little bit. So why are you doing Why are you here? Why circular economy? Why are you joining me on this adventure?

Emily Swaddle 0:54
Well, I love an adventure. So that was the main draw. But I think there's a lot things that pulled me to do this with you, Barry and a kind of from all different places. Am in terms of circular economy, I have been interested in and worked in and being passionate about environmental issues for a long time. Over the past few years, I've worked in community building around climate action. And I've built my knowledge base a little bit around things like sexual economy and sustainability and that broad topic. But at the end of last year, I gave up that job. And I started kind of a new career path. And within this new version of my life, I was trying to find ways that I could keep ahold of this sustainability aspect, but how could I hold on to this passion? Because I wasn't working in it anymore. So when this opportunity came up, I just jumped today because I was like, Yes, I want to talk about those things all the time. So if I can talk about them with people who actually are invested and have so much experience and knowledge and we can have interesting fun conversations. That sounds ideal. And I suppose the other side of that is that interesting and fun conversations are also something that I am kind of passionate about. Which might seem like a funny thing to say you're passionate about. But my new chapter in life is taking me towards coaching and facilitation. So I'm constantly kind of thinking about how we can have productive conversations and efficient conversations and deepen meaningful conversations. And so, this podcast, I'm also a huge fan of podcasts in general, is an opportunity to do that on a topic that is close to my heart.

Barry O'Kane 2:40
Very cool. And so we're doing this short introduction episode, partly to introduce ourselves and also to introduce the whole concept of why this season, or what we're trying to do with this season. And so first of all, just to kind of quite quickly, define some things. So the circular economy, because it's such a broad, and I think quite exciting term, or sort of bunch of definitions of things that are happening under the circular economy umbrella. So there's that. But the focus of this season and the focus, obviously for HappyPorch Radio generally is, I guess, digital and software and design and agency world, and how we as sectors and industry can be progressive and positive. And more than just passively. I want to use a term like part of the solution rather than part of the problem in this broad, particularly in this season, the environmental focus. So wanted to talk about those things just really quickly. But to start, I wonder, for those listening who aren't familiar with the circular economy as a concept, what would be your two sentence definition of what the circular economy is?

Emily Swaddle 3:51
Hmm, two sentences. They might be long sentences. Well, the circular economy for me is an economic system, a globally economic system in which we care about what comes out of our production system as well as what goes into it? That's really broad and brief. But I think that that is, to me, a lot of the underlying essence of the sacred economy is about what goes into what we need, and what comes out of what we use, and the circular bit is about how much care and attention we put on to those things.

Barry O'Kane 4:29
Hmm, I think that's really interesting, because I didn't want to jump into just a technical definition. Because to me, I think what you've described there is kind of motivation, its purpose. And from that comes all this wonderful stuff. And the really cool thing about all of this for me is that it ties together the values and the purpose of genuinely wanting to, particularly in an environmental sense, reduce some of the horrible disasters pains that we as a species and as a planet are facing But to do more than just reduce that, to have positive impact. And to do that in a way that also aligns with modern world, the modern human world. So basically the economic system. So to sort of talk about the circular economy and the way that Ellen MacArthur Foundation and others often describe, you start by saying, well, the current economic system is very linear, you dig something up, you take it, you make stuff out of that many multiple complex ways. You use that thing, and then you throw it away. And there's a very sort of linear, very kind of take make waste approach to it. So the circular economy, I think, the thing that really stands out for me is about keeping value within that chain. So if you're going to all the effort, digging something up from the ground or growing it or making it, and then going through multiple complex supply chains and companies and businesses, to make a thing at that point at that early in the stages value, environmental energy, physical and monetary value in those things. So what do we do then? Do we just use it once and throw it away and start again at the top of the chain? Or do we try and keep that value there? And I think that's why I'm so interested in that broad definition of purpose, because value there covers so many different things. Yeah, all the way from financial value all the way up.

Emily Swaddle 6:18
Yeah, you're right about keeping the value. But a lot of the time, the value is there, whether we see it or not. And it's kind of about recognising the value, or just reframing the way we're looking at this waste in inverted commas. So that we do recognise its value and understand how to use it in a more efficient way or in a continuous way. I mean, one person's waste and another person's treasure. So I think that's kind of the essence of a lot of the circular economy mindset. There's that saying that we don't inherit the earth from our grandparents, we borrow it from our children. And I think that that kind of encapsulates the idea that if we felt like the resources that we have at our fingertips were precious enough. And you know, if we really thought about the idea that our children are going to rely on these things, then we would think twice about all the single use and all the irresponsible use that we currently have in our economic practice. So yeah, I think mindset is kind of the anchor of everything about the circular economy, really.

Barry O'Kane 7:25
hmm. Yeah. And that touches on every step all the way through the process. Like you say, there's the value there, whether you like it or not as a business, or businesses or as an economy. Several of the people we're speaking to, in this season, use this kind of terminology and this thinking. But what they talk about is, there's all this value leaking out all the way through the supply chain, all the way through the economy. The simplest way to do that is financial value, you know, if I make something and then sell at once Well, that's the end of that. But there's so much more opportunity and exciting things from a business sense that could happen all the way through that. But then there's also the value Including a waste part where we're throwing away things that don't. The plastic bags last for hundreds or thousands of years. But that's just the simplest, most clear example. You talk about. Everything, everything that we do from the ships that are taking things around the planet to the things on the ship. It just touches on so many different things. And this, I think, is what I like about the whole conversation is that it's a positive opportunity driven thing, rather than a fight against something. What we're saying is there's opportunity here, opportunity for...

Emily Swaddle 8:32
...there's been creativity and people using their imaginations to come up with kind of solutions that I wouldn't have thought of in a million years. So I think that's really cool. Feels exciting,

Barry O'Kane 8:46
huh, exactly. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation define the circular economy or they say it's "based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems". So all of that in phrased in a very positive way that you can see how those things will bring direct environmental and global benefits. But then there's also so much in addition to that, all the way through the process.

Emily Swaddle 9:11
Yeah, like that positive spin, because the reason that we're doing this really the crux of it is that we're in a time where we know so clearly the detrimental environmental effects of almost everything we do as a species, from just simply feeding ourselves to moving around to communicating with each other. Everything we do has some environmental impact. And most of the things we do have a huge environmental impact, if only because of the scale of the species we've taken over the planet, and then some, and all of that, it can be overwhelming and terrifying. And there's such a thing as climate anxiety, and it's real, and I understand it entirely. But what circular economy is kind of about and I think what this season is about, is there's Hope. It's not just that we're killing the world. And that's it, we just have to accept that. There's a lot of people out there doing really interesting and amazing and inspirational things, who actually try and help fix this problem. They're all doing the best they can and not just for their own kind of personal or professional gain, but for actually this bigger picture. And however they fit into that bigger picture as maybe a tiny piece. So maybe connecting piece or maybe creating a platform for other people to become a connecting piece. That's what we're kind of diving into in this. And I think that's what really makes it important.

Barry O'Kane 10:39
That's exactly it. And the specific angle or approach that we're trying to do in that conversation is to talk about the digital and the software and the design and the online where all of those things fit in the circular economy conversation in this transition to some exciting future opportunities. Somebody myself, our agency does custom online software and apps. And that in itself can often feel disconnected if you work in design or digital or software technology. And so part of this conversation, one of the goals for the season is to try and join the dots here and demonstrate or show all these amazing things and how surprisingly, software and digital is part of making that happen. It's either enabling it as in, it's not possible without those kind of tools, or it's making it vastly more efficient or cheaper or whatever. So it's all the things that you see as your software is eating the world, that kind of stuff, the impact of that. But in a way that I think is just inspiring rather than just churning through. It's kind of why HappyPorch business exists and why their podcasts exist, because there should be much more value in doing that work than just itself and to feel like we're actually contributing to be part of a solution. Rather than just going through the motions and therefore contributing to the problem.

Emily Swaddle 12:05
Yeah. And I think that what is cool about these two elements being brought together in this season, the element of the circular economy and of the software and digital technologies is how universal they both all but not necessarily universally connected in everyone's minds. So circular economy, as we mentioned, is kind of a global thing addressing a global issue and can and probably will affect everyone. And if you're listening to this podcast right now you are engaging with or utilising or aware of software and digital technologies, probably a lot of software, digital technologies. And so yeah, bringing those two things together is really cool idea. So if I can ask you a question, Barry, what is it that you hope for in this season? as we explore the link between these two things, and we get to the end of the season, what is it that you hope that we'll have achieved

Barry O'Kane 13:00
Well, I keep coming back to the opportunity side of things, it feels like there is an opportunity for those of us who work in the digital, who run businesses in our work in agencies or businesses, who do design, who do technology, who do all of the things that are needed to make digital software and digital tools work, to be impactful to be more than just agency to have agency has to have impact to be out there. So rather than just kind of going through the motions, like I said before, basically what I would like to do is spark a little bit or raise the profile of that conversation within my little corner of this industry. And I hope those listening kind of interested or intrigued enough to try and think about how we as a sector, as a profession, as a series of professions, as a whole industry, can be getting involved in these solutions in the physical world in a way that's much more More than just like I said, passively going through the motions, making sure we take the boxes and therefore not contribute to the problem. The thing I keep coming back to is that last point of the Ellen MacArthur definition, like regenerating natural systems. I think that, to me encapsulates a lot of the, you know, it's more than just doing your recycling, it's more than just, if you're an individual, you're more than just going and doing your shopping and thinking about where you buy stuff. It's more than just giving some money to causes. It's more than just, you know, retweeting or signing a petition or whatever. The real power is in where we spend a huge amount of our time in our businesses, to work out how we can contribute in every way to this broad circular economy and related concepts. I think that works in every sector. So it's really easy and clear to talk. This is one of the great things about the season as we're talking to people who are like, involved in supply chain management. So that's tracking software. Were to handling data, and all of the things that come with that. Then we're talking to other people who maybe run consumer platforms. So that's apps and design and UX and service, design, and, and content, and all of these things that we use all the way through the digital sector that we really know and understand. And then there's really hardcore things that are hidden, deeper and manufacturing's, for example, a way to improve efficiencies or to reduce materials, or educational stuff that's talking to designers about how providing them with information and the data about what materials and how they're reused. And I feel like I'm just beginning to scratch the surface of this and ever owning less business models, you know, things that allow you to create a whole new businesses. And so as a sector, we've got this sort of latent power, or letting responsibility and so I want to be part of that conversation. And I want to speak to other people who I admire and are doing that already. And use their stories to inspire myself and others. I hope And just to be involved in a conversation to try and have that level of positive impact.

Emily Swaddle 16:04
Nice. That's a great aim. So a lot of things we've gonna do over the course of the season.

Barry O'Kane 16:12
Yeah, that's the aspirational goal, maybe I should assume that more than two people are listening.

Emily Swaddle 16:19
hello to our 2 listeners. I think you've, well I mean, covered a lot. But that kind of broad spectrum that we want to showcase in this season, I think, even though we're kind of going broad and a lot of the conversations are diving deeper into certain things, you're right, when you say we're only really scratching the surface of so much of this. So I think if I could add another thing to our list of aims, it would be that we kind of inspire the listeners to find out more, go and learn more about this and to learn more about other businesses that are doing similar things. Maybe even inspired by some of the questions we asked when we're having these conversations just to dive a bit deeper so that they can find out about the circular economy solutions that are happening near them or in the industry they're interested in or that they work in, and maybe how they themselves can get involved or how they could change things up in their workplace or their surroundings and have a positive impact.

Barry O'Kane 17:25
Yeah, and as a final kind of, I guess, call out for everybody listening to please raise those questions with us as well. We'd love to hear feedback on these conversations. I'm especially interested in those tough questions that I hope we can address some in some ways during the season, ranging from privacy concerns, through to practical concerns through to how do we make this real, where does it work and where does it not. Really interested in technical and challenging questions, really interested in feedback on the podcast and really looking forward to this adventure, Emily.

Emily Swaddle 18:02
Yeah, let's do it.

Barry O'Kane 18:04
Without any further ado.

Announcer 18:07
You can find notes and links from this episode plus a full transcript at HappyPorchRadio.com. If you are enjoying the show, please take a moment to give us a positive review on your favourite podcast app. Thanks for listening to HappyPorch Radio.