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How UCA research is helping shape
a more sustainable economy

Professor Martin Charter, Director of our Centre for Sustainable Design, on his mission to ‘design out’ waste in industries from fishing to fashion.

09 Apr 2021

Clothing being repaired at UCA Farnham's Repair Cafe

Grassroots innovation

The Repair Café serves as a community workshop where Farnham citizens can bring faulty household items to be fixed by a team of skilled volunteers. Ultimately, it aims to help reduce waste by encouraging a repair culture in the local community. It also has the happy side effect of saving carbon emissions while providing important social interaction.

The big picture

Every time a new product is produced, CO2 is released into the atmosphere through the energy used to extract and transport raw materials, as well as through emissions from manufacturing processes. When we extend the life of an existing product, we eliminate the need to purchase a new product, and the carbon emissions associated with making it.

The fourth and fifth “green waves”

Charter has worked in the field of sustainability since the late 1980s. He set up The Centre for Sustainable Design (CfSD) in 1995, and has since undertaken 15–20 European-funded projects and written five books. Over the years he has observed how different environmental issues have come to the fore for each generation. He believes that the most recent wave, however, is the most significant yet, due to the strong engagement of youth and the acceleration that social media provides.

Tackling ocean plastic

Another environmental issue that has been brought to the fore in recent years is the huge problem of ocean plastic. Charter’s developing focus on circular business models led to the CfSD being invited to take part in two projects that have been set up to tackle the issue: Circular Ocean (2015–18) and Blue Circular Economy (2018–2022) — both funded by the EU Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) Programme.

Looking to the future

Charter’s long-standing expertise in eco-innovation and the circular economy, developed through multiple international, national and regional studies, has led him into many areas. These include the drafting of four national and international standards which shape how circular economy and eco-design principles are implemented by businesses. Due to his extensive knowledge of Circular Economy, Charter was invited to be part of the core group that published the world’s 1st standard on implementing circularity into organisations — BS8001:2017. Subsequently, he was invited to lead UK’s delegation on the first global Circular Economy standards development — ISO TC 323.