What Goes Around Comes Around: Ellen MacArthur Foundation Launches the Circular Cities Network

Going round in circles

When Ellen MacArthur set out to live her life-long dream, sailing solo around the world, she knew the journey would be life-changing.

Author Annalisa Dorigo, 10.25.16

When Ellen MacArthur set out to live her life-long dream, sailing solo around the world, she knew the journey would be life-changing. What she didn’t know is that sitting alone on a small boat facing the elements, thousands of miles away from home, she would not only feel at one with the world around her, but she would learn first hand what it means to live with finite resources, and what the risks of going without would be. What to do with this newly found awareness?

On her return from her epic circumnavigation of the world as a solo yachtswoman in 2005, Ellen MacArthur set about learning as much as possible about the way world economies work, and how resources are used.

In 2010, after numerous meetings with economy and industry experts in many countries, having understood enough of what’s wrong with a dominant world economic system based on a linear ‘take, make, dispose’ approach – an approach relying on, but also bound by finite resources (such as coal and oil) that sooner or later are going to run out – Ellen founded the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a UK-based charity organisation that seek to promote the transition to the Circular Economy.  

Through the dissemination of cutting edge ideas and research on the Circular Economy, the foundation seeks to inspire schools and education institutions, governments, decision makers and business leaders to rethink the future through the circular economy lens. And now, the foundation has a new tool to help promote an economy that is designed for efficient resource management, and therefore regenerative and restorative, rather than wasteful and destructive: the newly launched Circular Cities Network.


This is ‘a global network of city leaders who are pioneering the application of circular economy approaches to address today’s urban challenges‘. At at time of rapid global urbanisation – with some 75 per cent of the world population expected to live in cities by 2050 – the job of cities authorities and planners in dealing with transport, housing, food, waste, jobs, and public service provision is becoming increasingly challenging.

The Circular Cities Network provides an online knowledge exchange platform to help cities governments deal with these challenges through the framework of the Circular Economy, with a focus on long-term resource management and sustainability. Some of the concepts underpinning the Circular Economy model include: cradle-to-cradle, bio-mimicry, regenerative design, blue economy.

Austin, Boulder,Copenhagen, London, Ljubljana, New York City, Peterborough, Phoenix and Rio de Janeiro are the initial members of this new network, who shall meet remotely, via video conferencing, every three months to support, inspire and galvanise each other towards a necessary new vision for the smart city of the 21st Century and beyond.

Here’s Ellen MacArthur telling us why all this matters:

Smart Cities: Efficient, Sustainable, Digitised Living

Our current global environment is undergoing significant changes that have never been experienced in the history of humanity. Coupled with an increase in rural to urban migration, the need to create sustainable communities and cities is more visible than ever before. We take a look at the notion of 'Smart Cities'.

Growing Trends: Belgian Supermarket to Produce Its Own Vegetables

Worried about where your vegetables come from? A Belgian supermarket has announced plans to grow and sell their very own vegetables in a rooftop garden starting next year. It follows an increasing trend towards urban farming, which aims for more sustainable, zero-mile food supplies for city dwellers.

Treehouses Reinvented: and Not Just for Kids

Can architecture, urbanism and nature work together to deliver environmental sustainability, greater quality of life for communities, as well as aestethically pleasing cityscapes? This visionary project is showing us just how this is possible.

The Circular Economy

Visions of a society without waste are spreading!

Houses Made from Plastic Waste Are Improving Quality of Life in Mexico

Two birds with one stone: reducing waste piles in Mexico and simultaneously creating cost-effective living spaces. These are the houses that plastic waste built!

iPhone 5 Today, E-waste Tomorrow: Our Terrabyte-Sized Tech Trash

Every year our planet produces 20-50 million metric tons of electronic waste, only 15% of which gets recycled.

Car Sharing and Bike Riding in China

An alternative solution to the congested roads in China: car sharing. Over the last few years, "car sharing" become more and more popular among the Chinese. Their reasons are simple: to save on travelling and fuel costs.