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On Wednesday 10th February 2016,  Green Vision kicked off our 2016 events programme with a half day conference exploring the concept of the Circular Economy and it’s practical application in both the public and private sector. Attendees were also treated to a networking lunch as well as a tour of the Bright Building, home of the Re:Centre and the first University building to attain Breeam Outstanding status.

The event was opened by Green Vision Ambassador, and event chair for the afternoon, Eddie Murphy, who gave a brief overview of his new venture, Ollio Consultancy, a brand new sustainability and building performance consultancy, with reference to the key themes for the afternoon; circular economy, bioeconomy, designing for reuse  and  going beyond sustainability. The more I hear, the more I feel sustainability is really not an adequate term. It is not strong enough – we need whole scale systematic change and frankly the word sustainability doesn’t encapsulate this.

Following Eddie’s introduction, we then welcomed Peter Hopkinson to the floor. Peter Hopkinson is Head of Circular Economy initiatives at Bradford University and was one of the principal leads in the construction of the Bright Building. Peter, at the audience’s request, gave a warts and all account of the building’s construction including areas where the final outcome may not have been as successful as hoped i.e., the useability of the light switches! However, it was clear that the technology behind the Bright Building is extremely clever particularly in the areas of heating, ventilation and acoustics and in the use of locally sourced hempcrete as the main building material.

Peter was followed by Bridget Jackson, Corporate Sustainability Director at PwC who gave a fascinating account of the real practical steps that PwC have taken in order to meet their target of 100% of their waste materials reused, repurposed or recycled. Bridget was keen to stress that this had to start with design, she was only interested in using materials throughout the business that could be repurposed. One particular example I enjoyed was uniforms – there are over 3300 uniforms used throughout PwC’s operations and Bridget has ensured that these could either be reused as uniforms, or broken down to be used as industrial rags or insulation. Umbrella’s are still a challenge though…!

Our final two speakers for the day were Martin Brown, Green Vision Chair and Owner at Fairsnape who talked about Design for Deconstruction and Maggie Smallwood at BioVale who delivered an interesting  presentation on the Bioeconomy. The four speakers then reconvened for a panel debate which will be summarised in separate blog post at a later date.

Overall the conference provided much food for thought and I, along with many of the attendees, left full of ideas of how it can be applied at home and in the workplace. The challenge, which every speaker alluded to, is engagement. How do we get our companies, organisations as a collective to get on board? How do we ensure we are going circular instead of going round in circles? Let us know your thoughts.

Our summary of the event, including the best tweets and images can be found in our event storify below,