Hello everyone, and welcome to the final show of Happy Porch Radio Season 5.
Today, we look at this past season, highlighting each of our guests, how they’re changing the world, and some of the pertinent details about them.
A few of the main topics and themes we covered in this season were keeping things in use, reuse, and services.
One overriding theme, though, was how holistic the circular economy is, and why we need a combination of many solutions to create a better world.
To finish off the episode, we talk about some of the biggest takeaways from this season, as well as our hopes for our listeners.
See you next season!
“Even in this weird and unpredictable year that is 2020, there are still people who are pushing for a more circular world, for a more just world. It's been great to hear all those stories.” — @happyporch
Tune in to find out:
- Introducing today’s topic: the themes and lessons we learned from Season 5 of HPR.
- We take a brief look at each of our guests from this past season.
- Hear about what we learned from each guest.
- What we took away from Season 5.
- How we hope our listeners approached each episode they listened to.
“It's easy to forget that even every success story has failed, just as much as they've succeeded, if not more.” — @happyporch
Links mentioned in this episode:
[00:00:05] BO: Welcome to the last episode of Season 5 of Happy Porch Radio. This season, we’ve been talking about the circular economy and all things digital and software. In this final episode of the season, Emily and I are going to reflect back on each person that we had the pleasure of speaking to and perhaps, pick out some of the themes and lessons that we learned as we went along.
Emily, before we start talking about people, I wanted to spring a quick question on you. In the first episode, in the very first episode, we talked about why we were doing this season. I guess, reflecting back on that, how do you feel overall how did the season go for you? Was it fun? What did you learn?
[00:00:45] ES: Yeah, it was all right. I’m joking. It was super fun. I feel like I learned more than I even can remember at this moment. I know we're using this episode as a moment to reflect. I think that I’ll actually be reflecting on this for a few more weeks, a few more months and things will probably just come to me as I let it sit in my head and brew a little bit.
I think, it's definitely met expectations, probably exceeded expectations really in terms of the inspiring stories that we've managed to collect and the people we've met. Generally, thinking about this problem that everyone is collectively trying to address. Even in this weird and unpredictable year that is 2020, there's still people who are pushing for a more circular world, for a more just world for that transition to circular economy. It's actually been really, really nice to hear all those stories.
[00:01:54] BO: Yeah. I very much agree. I guess, it's even more opened my eyes to how big and varied and interesting a topic we picked with circular economy and even trying to focus on the software and digital and that aspect of it touches on so much and so many different things that I really enjoyed the variety and the scope, I guess, of the conversations, which was maybe broader even than I expected when we started the season.
[00:02:21] ES: Yeah. Even, I feel like, we just scraped the surface. There's so much more to discover.
[00:02:26] BO: Absolutely. Yeah. Barely scratched the surface.
[00:02:30] ES: Yeah, exactly.
[00:02:31] BO: Just really quickly, we've had a lot of different guests. I wanted to just really quickly go through them all as a memory jog for us. Then after that, pick out some of the themes and some of the things we wanted to really draw out from the season as we close. Back at the start, we started with – we spoke to Catherine Weetman, who gave us this – I thought, Catherine, by the way, who's literally written the book and her new book has recently come out. Anybody listening, should definitely check out the updated version of her book about the circular economy. Catherine gave us a really good starting point. She has a really good way she describes and sets the scene and defines the broader definitions of the circular economy.
[00:03:12] ES: Yeah. That was certainly helpful for me and I hope it was also helpful for listeners, as a good intro to what we're talking about. The next episode, we spoke with Lieke from FLOOW2 and FLOOW2 Healthcare. I think that was a great example to start with. Lieke showed a lot of passion for the subject and talked a lot about the difficulties that she faced along the way. Also, given the healthcare crisis that we're in right now, it was interesting to see how even that field can be involved in this transition.
[00:03:43] BO: After that we spoke to Tom and Sophie from Disposal, who filled me with passion and interest for waste and specifically, the issues around data and data compliance and managing waste and how important that question is in order to move to a more circular economy.
[00:04:04] ES: Episode 5, we spoke to Jordi de Vos from Circularise, which I think was the beginning of a thought process for me about the different layers of the supply chain that all need to interact and collaborate in this transition. That was really interesting to hear.
[00:04:25] BO: Then we spoke to Maayke from the Excess Materials Exchange, which was another really interesting episode, similar – I thought, a lot of similar themes that came out from the conversation we have with Lieke, about the difficulties and challenges and potential opportunities in the work that they're doing about connecting, I guess, the waste, or the outcome from one place to be the fuel, or the input to another place.
[00:04:51] ES: That's a common theme throughout, I think. In episode seven, when we spoke to Pablo from Madaster, another common theme came out here when we were talking about the idea of data and understanding the information side of materials within the circular economy. That obviously plays a huge role, when we're talking about digital and software within this space. Pablo explained really well and what Madaster are doing and where they're trying to go with this.
[00:05:22] BO: Then we spoke to Paul McSweeney from ZeroNet. Since we spoke to him, they've released their version, launched in down in Brighton and the south coast of England and I’ve heard some really positive results, or initial findings from the work they're doing there. That maybe because that problem is so difficult that they're trying to solve that reverse logistics problem of how to get things back into the cycle from their homes, given our current structure and assumptions of everything being linear. I thought that was quite inspiring, the work and the hard work and again, another recurring theme of, I guess, how long it takes to get something really off the ground and that pioneering.
[00:06:03] ES: That's good to hear that they've had good reports from their initial projects. It's really exciting. Episode 9, we spoke with Dave from Kaer about air-conditioning as a service. This was really interesting for me, because we were talking mostly about the business model and how that in itself can turn what we traditionally think of as a product into something that can be much more circular and therefore, much more sustainable. There's so much to talk about when it comes to air-conditioning. I really had no idea it was going to be as interesting as it was. I really enjoyed speaking to Dave about that and just opened a box for okay, well, if we can sell air-conditioning as a service and make that whole process so much more efficient, where else can we go? There's limitless possibilities.
[00:06:59] BO: Yeah, and the servitisation of a product as a service business model is I think, really intriguing and really interesting. It's obviously not a panacea and it's applied in a non-circular way as well. What he was really eloquent, I think, in describing is that aligning the business model to the sustainability goals, it makes everything move so much easier. He talked about instead of having a sustainability department, their main sustainability champion was their CFO, because the more efficient they are, the more money they make and the more efficient they are in this virtuous cycle, which is really interesting.
Another thing that I think then came out again in the next episode with Joerg from iPoint, who's talking about digitization and using – literally digitizing and using the digital infrastructure in the data there to model and understand real-world things in order to then make the decisions that are important for the businesses to move forward.
[00:07:55] ES: Yeah. A lot of these decisions are based around maybe that as we've said, their business model, or the way that they're looking at actually running their own business. From Craig Melson's episode in episode 11, we talked with Craig from techUK. It made me think a bit more on a policy level about things to do with data protection and regulation and things that just need to be in place in order to have a circular infrastructure. I thought that was another key part of this whole transition is having that level of support.
[00:08:32] BO: Yeah, definitely. I think that was the episode where we explicitly talked as well about, we've been mostly focusing on software, so we didn't really talk about the hardware aspect and Craig mentioned some of the data center industry and the problems and this work that they're doing, the work that needs to happen there and is happening a little bit there in terms of circularity of hardware and dealing with energy usage and all the big challenges that come with that.
In the next episode, we spoke to Roy from Circular IQ. I thought that was another interesting conversation as well, about – I think that was one of the first times we started talking about measuring circularity and other – not just the software and the what, but the broader how and measuring and some of the work that Circular IQ I thought was really interesting in that area.
[00:09:22] ES: Yeah. In episode 13, we got to speak to the Queen of Raw herself, Stephanie Benedetto. She had so much energy and so much passion, as did all the people we spoke to. I feel like with Stephanie, just came out with every breath she took. Fashion is something that has been talked about so much in terms of sustainability and in terms of supply chain knowledge, knowing where everything comes from and how fair it is, etc.
I think that Stephanie’s position within this whole industry is really interesting. She's not necessarily looking at the things that we buy from our high street, but more the waste that comes from those producers and then how we can recognize the value in that after the fact. I thought that was a really interesting conversation as well.
[00:10:10] BO: Yeah, it really was. Then in the next episode, we spoke to another pair with almost the same – very different, but very similar energy that they brought with them, Ellekari and Marielle from Circular Stories. Their own story, I really enjoyed their own story about the journey they took around Europe. Then, also learning a little bit about some of the circular stories that they're sharing. I really love that. Also, it tied into this broader theme about how digital, or an industry in our sector can be part of the circular stories in multiple different ways and their example, by literally sharing and allowing and helping people to promote the work that they're doing.
[00:10:55] ES: Yeah. I liked our conversation with Circular Stories, because I felt as though it was quite different from everyone else we spoke to, and that they are sharing stories. There's not a particular product that they're doing, or necessarily transitioning towards circular economy themselves personally. It's more a story of empowering other people to do it and celebrating those who are already pioneering in that way. I thought that was a really nice part of this whole narrative.
In episode 15, we've done a lot of these. I didn't even realize it, Ben. It’s many. In episode 15, we spoke to Michael Groves from Topolytics. I think, we've already mentioned data and I think that the importance of data and how we can use that in terms of managing waste and recognizing the value of what we call waste, probably need a different word, because waste just sounds as if it's invaluable, but it's not.
I think that this conversation with Michael around Topolytics was really honed in on exactly why that's so important, that data can be used so beneficially in this transition and how relevant it all is really.
[00:12:13] BO: Yeah, definitely. Then in the next episode, we spoke to Stephen Clarke from TerraCycle and we spoke mostly about Loop, which is really, one of the pioneers, I think, in potentially changing the way we buy and consume from this just everyday items from the supermarket, so you get a reusable container, or containers that you then return and the moment they're doing that in an e-commerce format and they talked about moving eventually to having in-store returnable, reusable shopping, I guess, broadly.
What was fun about that, I thought, was how Stephen talked about it was larger scale working with some of the big supermarkets and Tescos and some of the big suppliers and brands and really helping them learn and dip their dough in in what we hope will eventually become a much broader wave. That came out of that vision of TerraCycle, which was about recycling and which has come out of the vision of just needing like so many of these people we spoke to back behind it all, there's this mission-driven approach of actually needing to solve a broader problem.
[00:13:24] ES: Yeah. Speaking of which, Aisling Byrne, who we spoke to in episode 17 and what I call her an accidental entrepreneur. Did you mentioned when we spoke to her that she had never really thought of herself as being a businesswoman? She just knew that this was an important thing to do. She was driven by the impact that she saw and a solution that she thought might work. I think that that makes her story really inspiring as well, because you don't have to be the next business brain of Britain to take on a challenge like this. Obviously, it takes a lot of passion and that's something that Aisling really showed us in our conversation.
As well, the idea that her whole business concept is driven by the community needs. That's where it started without even an app. They just did it on a community level and then built up with the technology what was needed, rather than thinking, “Okay. What can we do with this technology?” Then fitting the community needs into that, it felt like it was really driven by the needs of the people who were going to be using this tool.
[00:14:37] BO: Yeah, definitely. The next episode, I thought was a bit different, partly because Tom Harper who we spoke to, there his business Unusual Rigging was really at the point that the dangerous point of this year, or the negative of this year, because they work in the events industry on supplying rigging and equipment. He shared some of the real challenges that he's experienced this year and how they were attempting to turn that into, or draw out the positives in amongst all that.
The reason we spoke to him was because for many years, he had worked really hard with his business to change the way that they dealt with their stock, the physical items, the rigging, the pulleys. They have huge amounts of these physical things that are used in all sorts of event, stadium, theatres and so on. He shared how they had used software and started to track and understand the use and measure the use and where these things are and I guess, a stock control, but for the circular economy within addition of things like tracing and measuring the performance and things like that, which allowed him to start exploring changes to their business models, as well as making immediate savings, the changes to their business models and allowing them to – on a similar journey to the way that Kaer described of being able to say, maybe shifting some of the mindset a little bit from, “Hey, we need to give you this thing or sell you this thing once, but maybe there's a different way we can provide value to you that works better is more circular and works better for both parties.
[00:16:20] ES: Yeah. Again, Tom is an example of this, not coming from a background of entrepreneurship, or sustainability and finding his way into this role, into this world through his own passion and his own willingness to just learn and innovate as he goes, which is true of so many of the people we spoke to and I think, true of a lot of people out there who are entrepreneurs in this space. They're guessing a lot of the time and just going with what works and learning and innovating, which not an easy path to take, but really worthwhile, I think.
Which actually leads us nicely to the final episode that we did with guests, episode 19. We had Emily and Claire from Reath join us and tell us so much about the past couple of years that they've been working together on this project and sharing the ups and downs very candidly with us, which I appreciate so much. I think, the entrepreneurial journey is quite often – I think, we glamorize it a bit and look at it through rose tinted glasses, because we see the success stories. It's easy to forget that even every success story has failed, just as much as they've succeeded, if not more. With that, comes a lesson that everyone's learning and allows them to take the next step.
It's just that resilience to keep going that really struck me, specifically in that conversation with Reath, but certainly as a general theme throughout the whole season. This is a very new field and the people who are working in it are pioneers and they're creating their own path. It's really, it's been a pleasure to speak with them all.
[00:18:19] BO: Absolutely. We definitely haven't done them justice in that quick run through. If you're listening now and you haven't heard some of those, please go back and listen. Let them tell their own story and share some of the amazing work that we're doing that we just didn't have time to touch on there.
You've already mentioned some of the themes that really came out from the season for you there. Maybe there's one or two more. One thing that I wanted to pick up on that I aware of as I reflect back in the season, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has this very succinct definition of circular economy in their terms and they say, a circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems.
From my point of view, I think in this episode, we really focused on the middle point there almost exclusively, keeping products and materials in use. We did several conversations about waste. We did a lot of different approaches and models to keeping things in use, reuse, or as a service and a little bit touched on the measuring and the data and the way that that needs to work.
We touched a little bit on designing at waste and pollution, I guess, business model touches on that. We barely touched on regenerating natural systems. I guess, what I’m saying is there's yet another way where we've barely scratched the surface.
[00:19:39] ES: Yeah, it's true. I think, one of the themes that just kept coming back throughout the season was this idea of how holistic the circular economy needs to be, that there's never going to be one solution, or one answer to this whole problem. That each of the companies that we spoke to is a piece of the puzzle. Even a lot of them explicitly talked about how much they endeavour to work closely with other businesses who are doing very different things from their own, but fit in nicely with the view they see for this world.
I think that what you just said, Barry, of this idea of circular economy, that says it all really, that there's so much that needs to be worked on and looked at and changed and thought about and embraced in order to get to the point where we can successfully say we live in a circular economy. It's just endless, almost.
[00:20:49] BO: The other reflection, or I guess, observation I wanted to make as well is back at the first episode, you asked one of the questions I thought really stood out for me that when you asked me was what's the purpose? Why are we doing this season? For me, one of the reasons is well, one of the reasons is it's just cool and fun to speak to amazing people. One of the other motivations is within the industry that I’m part of, so create digital software and online tools and apps and so on, and broadly, even broadening that out within digital services and consulting and agencies and design, I feel there's a sector there that we have a power, stroke of responsibility to contribute towards this and to get involved in it in so many different ways.
Even when it's not as you said, it's not us maybe working directly on the problem. It's not where the rubber hits the road. There's so many exciting opportunities and I feel we're only at the start of that. 2020 for many people, I think, has brought that further up the agenda for all sorts of reasons. It's an interesting and potentially positive way to move forward within the industry, within the work that we do, within the businesses that we run to be part of this positive story moving forward.
[00:22:16] ES: What do you see when looking back at this series? How do you hope that it hits people listening to it, who aren't necessarily already working towards having that positive impact? What do you hope that they take away from it?
[00:22:33] BO: Overall, I think that there is an opportunity to be involved in an exciting, positive way. I mean, yes, but not just in a way of solving a problem in this huge environmental pollution, climate change and waste problem that we have globally. There's huge opportunities in the opportunities for business, like pure economic and business opportunities, as an individual to find the level of challenge and interest and fulfilment that I think comes with having working on something positive.
I think that's the overarching thing. Then also, I guess inspiration, the fact that it's not just – some of these problems are solvable, depending on how we define solvable, but there's a real positive way step forward. That it's powerful to be a small part of that positive movement.
[00:23:32] ES: Yeah. I think it's actually been really interesting for me to do this in the context of 2020. Obviously, this year has affected us all in some way. It's affected us all differently and we've all taken different things from it. For me, because there hasn't been much else to do apart from focus on work and projects and all the things that we can do from home, it's reminded me of exactly what you just said, Barry, of that fulfilment of working on these things that you know have an impact.
When it comes to being in isolation and cut back on everything else in our lives, in terms of what keeps us going, if we're doing work that's keeping us going, because we know that it's important and it's worthwhile and we can help with it, we can contribute in some way, I think that's so powerful for ourselves as individuals. For me personally, it's certainly been something that I’ve thought about this year.
I think it has been as well for those people that we spoke to during this season, having that thing that's keeping you going, because you know it's important and you know that it's going to have a positive impact.
[00:24:47] BO: Absolutely. A 100%. I think, all the remains to say is thank you so much, Emily, for joining me in this season. For those of you that listened along and if you haven't, quickly rush back and listen to everything else now. Here's to the next season. We'll be back in 2021.
[00:25:05] ES: Yeah. Thank you, Barry. It's been loads of fun and I look forward to the next one.
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