#Closetheloop Circularity Action Plan

We believe that a sustainable alternative to the current ‘take, make, waste’ way of doing business has to be adopted, urgently. And we believe that closed loop designs and circular business models are the only alternatives that work: because ‘more renewables + much less waste = a much happier planet’.

planet earth

Trying to make this happen was one of the driving reasons why we built and refined our business practices to become a Pending B Corporation. But this challenge can’t just be the responsibility of one company alone: change needs collective action. So as one of the founding signatories to #CloseTheLoop, on July 27th 2021, we made five public commitments to #CloseTheLoop and to offer consumers the genuine alternative that our planet needs: circularity.

One of those commitments was to produce a Circularity Action Plan, adopted by senior management, to turn our commitment to circularity – our commitment to reducing, reselling, re-using, recycling and re-purposing as much as possible – into a reality. We are proud to now present that Circularity Action Plan to you, divided into three sections, relating to each of the three key principles of circularity, and setting out both what we’ve done so far and what we want to do next.


Designing out waste and pollution: what we've done and what we want to do next

Waste and pollution are not accidents. They are largely a result of the way we design things, and around 80% of environmental impacts are determined by decisions made at the design stage.

Right from the earliest days of
now, sit down, led by our amazing furniture designer Charlie Fowler, we have adopted a mindset that views waste as a design flaw and instead looks to harness new materials and technologies. This avoids creating waste and pollution in the first place, as far as we possibly can.

To date, that approach has led to the following key achievements:

  • Creating a product range with parts that can be replaced: we’ve all seen them. Those sad, unloved sofas, skulking on a street corner, abandoned by their previous owners, left to get soaking wet in the rain. There are many reasons why this happens, but a key one will be that part of that sofa has been damaged or broken, leaving the entire thing unusable. Well, not with now, sit down products. All our furniture products are designed to be dismantled, so that their constituent parts can be replaced rather than the entire product having to be scrapped and replaced.

  • Cutting ‘invisible waste’: the waste generated from cutting and shaping the various parts that go to make up any product often goes unseen – it’s known as ‘invisible waste’. But we’ve worked hard on the dimensions of each of our parts and how best to fit them into the standard sizes of their base material in order to produce as many parts as possible, with as little as possible left over.

  • Creating bespoke reusable packaging: for our cushions and soon our sofas, we’re designing our own bespoke reusable packaging, made from upcycled materials. This means we don’t have to rely solely on cardboard or single-use plastic packaging, and therefore aren’t adding to the copious amounts of waste generated from the one-time use of modern consumer packaging.

We’re proud of those achievements, but we still have a lot more we want to do:

  • Given the progress we’ve made with our cushions, sofas and packaging, we want to take the same approach with all our future products, starting with our work side table. Our goal is to make it the norm to buy furniture produced in a closed loop system.

  • We want every product we launch to have its own bespoke reusable packaging, made from salvaged waste materials or recycled fabrics. And where there is not one available on the market, we plan to design and make our own.

  • We will continue to look at how we can refine the design, shape, layout and cutting processes for every individual part that makes up our products, to minimise the amount that’s left over. We will also explore new ways to use off-cuts and imperfectly printed fabric that won’t make the shop shelves.



Keeping products and materials in use: what we’ve done and what we want to do next

We hate the idea that a material has a finite life and can get used up: after all, atoms don’t just vanish. The human race simply can’t keep wasting resources, because soon enough we will run out of them. Instead, products and materials must be taken back and then kept in the economy, so they don’t end up in landfill or our oceans.  What we currently see as “waste”, we need to start seeing as “currently wasted but valuable assets”.

So at now, sit down we’re obsessed with trying to use recycled or re-used materials when we make our products – and then taking back the things we have sold to repair, refurbish and re-use. Here’s how we’re getting on:

  • We’ve worked hard to use as little new, virgin product as possible. Apart from a few decisions where we have no choice but to use a new, virgin source of a material (such as for quality or performance reasons), we’ve used recycled or re-used materials in all our products and their packaging. Even the feathers for our cushion fillers! This means that pretty much all our products are already keeping existing materials in use for longer than they would have been.

  • We’re providing a free and convenient way for our customers to return their used products to us so we can repair, refurbish and re-use them. We’re calling this our Second Life Guarantee, and it means we take responsibility for the products we bring into this world – forever. As well as giving our products a second, third or fourth life, we’re also giving customers who return a used product credit towards their next purchase with us.

There’s still more we want to do here, though. Our ultimate goal is to use absolutely nothing new. Nothing at all. Not one bit. Instead, we want all the materials we use to have been recycled or re-used. We still have work to do, but our key targets are:

  • A recycled alternative to the filler liners in our cushion, which are currently made of 100% cotton. We’ve tried a number of alternatives so far, but none has held the feathers in place securely enough – and it’s important we make a product that lasts.

  • We’re using new nylon zips on our cushions. We explored a recycled option, but the price difference was so great that it would have impacted too much on the sale price – and there’s no point making a product that ticks all the boxes but is too expensive.   

Regenerating natural systems: what we’ve done and what we want to do next

In nature, there is no concept of waste. Everything is food for something else – even a leaf that falls from a tree is feeding the forest. So, instead of simply trying to do less harm, we also need to aim to do good, by both protecting and then actively enhancing our natural resources and environment.

This is the toughest of the three principles of circularity, and one where we have the most work to do. But we’re still proud of what we’ve achieved to date:

  • Where we possibly can, we’ve sought to replace toxic and man-made materials with natural ones. For example, the filling for furniture is usually made from a horrible toxic foam – known as polyfoam – as it has excellent durability and mouldability. We’ve replaced 50% of that polyfoam with coir, a padding made from a combination of coconut fibres and natural latex, greatly reducing the amount of toxic material used in our products.

  • All our wood is certified by the [Forest Stewardship Council], which means that it doesn’t come from ancient or old forests and has been sourced sustainably, with new trees replacing the ones we use.

We also have clear targets for what we want to do next:

  • Using recycled polyester is much better than using new polyester. But we’re not finished there. Our aim is for our recycled polyester to come from collected waste products as far as possible, so that, in addition to reducing the amount of fossil fuels that need to be extracted from the ground and the amount of chemicals and power that need to be used, we’re also cleaning up our outdoor environment as we go – and making life safer and easier for our flora and fauna. Watch this space.

  • We’re intent on replacing the remaining 50% of polyfoam that we’re currently having to use as quickly as we can. That isn’t easy (if it was, we’d already have done it). But we’re not going to rest until we’re free from polyfoam.  

We want your comments, suggestions and criticisms

As a furniture and home furnishing business, we know we’re encouraging people to buy more new things. So we recognise that, just by publishing this policy, we’re opening ourselves up to accusations of greenwashing. But it’s our responsibility to engage with the challenges we face head on, and we’re absolutely up for that.

Our stance is that people will always need and want to buy new things, but we truly believe that if everyone took a moment to pause before they purchased, then more informed decisions can be made. And for those willing to pause and consider, we want to make sure they have the choice to buy from a company committed to circularity.

If you have suggestions or insights that can help us improve, just email andrew@nowsitdown.com any time – our plans are evolving continuously based on learning and sharing.

In the meantime, we’ll keep doing everything we can to embed circularity and closed loop principles more deeply into our products and business, encourage others to do likewise, and campaign for the wider system changes needed to move our modern life away from “take, make, dispose” to a circular world.

We don’t claim to know all the answers. But as we go, we’ll transparently share our progress and findings in the hope others will learn from our mistakes. We’ll talk openly, invite criticism and collaborate with partners and competitors alike. And we won’t exaggerate the effects of what we’re doing. Only by being honest do we have a chance of getting to our goal, not just as a company, but as a society.

We will #CloseTheLoop.

 

Kate & Louise

Co-founders now, sit down