You may have noticed that many of our events as of late have focused on circular economy. Naturally, this ties into social responsibility and sustainability, two things we sorta kinda think are a big deal! But there’s another reason–and in my humble opinion, an incredible feat–and that is, the pioneer initiative Circular Economy Switzerland.

In close collaboration with all Impact Hubs throughout Switzerland, sanu durabilitas and with the support of the MAVA foundation, this initiative will contribute to drive the new paradigm for the future of business, policy making and society. Exciting, right?! The Circular Economy Transition (CET), currently takes place in 5 Swiss cities – Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, and Zurich. They support SMEs and startups in the development of new business models, products and services suitable for the circular economy. And things are already heating up! To catch up on what’s happened so far, including learning which 26 Swiss startups have been chosen for the Incubator Program, you can read more here.

At our February event, “Circular Basel”, we focused on—you guessed it—what steps Basel can take to make this transition. Joining us were two fantastic speakers and partners, who explained the program in more detail.

The first, Marco Grossmann, Partner and Member of the Management Board at ecos, gave the keynote speech on “Circular Cities”. The focus on cities is key as 50% of global population lives in urban area; two-thirds of global energy is used in cities; 70% of global resources are used in cities; and 80% of global GDP is generated in cities. Clearly, urban centres will play a vital role in the transformation towards a circular economy.

Next, to present “Circular Basel”, was Matthias Nabholz, Head of the Office for Environment and Energy City of Basel. Yes, people…we have city officials on board! As you can imagine, governments are crucial partners for effecting drastic change.


So, how does this program work? The first “order of business” is to do an overview, or “Circle City Scan”. This includes looking at the local agenda, analyzing material flow, and identifying strategies and pilot projects. Based on the results of the Circle City Scans, the identified directions, opportunities and pilot projects will be analyzed jointly with all the cities concerned. The aim is a tailor-made toolkit to prepare the implementation of lighthouse projects ideally in cooperation with several cities.

In Basel, five areas have been identified:

  • Digital Marketplace
  • Circular Living Lab (Wolf area of Basel, near Dreispitz)
  • Reusable take-away Food Containers
  • Food-Save App
  • Furniture-as-a-Service for Public Procurement

After the presentations, groups broke off to discuss, dissect, identify risks and/or community concerns, brainstorm solutions, and generally give feedback on those five points.

I joined in the Digital Marketplace discussion. Construction generates an amazing amount of waste, quite unnecessarily, and it is major industry in Basel. The “circular” idea presented was to form one online platform (merging any that currently exist) for the buying and selling of second-hand construction materials. These would be available for purchase to commercial businesses as well as individual consumers. Some key findings that emerged from our group were:

  • Health concerns (i.e. how can we be assured there are no health risks inherent to the material, like fire retardants used, etc.)
  • Awareness and education need to play a key part in getting people to buy in this way (changing mind-sets about “used” goods)
  • Organisation of logistics (would this be in one warehouse, spread in buildings throughout BS and BL, online only?)

All in all, the smart, ever-engaged community came up with suggestions and key, valuable take-aways that had potential in the eyes of the city and ecos. We certainly will pay close attention to what transpires in the months and years ahead.

As an environmentalist and (extremely!) concerned human being about the state of the world, it puts a smile on my face to be in the midst of this momentum, and it feels good to be able to be a part of it directly. We hope you’ll be part of it, too, and join us at future Hub events. A big thanks to all who came out to support us last week and contributed to the conversation. We can’t do any of it without you!

Carrie Aikman

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