Hot off the press! In response to one of the greatest challenges of our time, a new yellow book by What Design Can Do is shining a spotlight on 31 creative optimists who are working to reinvent our relationship with waste. From building with bacteria to designing for disassembly, Never Waste A Good Crisis offers an exciting glimpse into the many initiatives and experiments that bring us closer to a circular future.

Today, we find ourselves at the precipice of multiple ecological crises. And by contributing to over-consumption and over-production, the creative industries have long been a part of the problem. The changemakers featured in this book show that we can do better. Design can (and must) be a part of the solution. ‘Designers are in a unique position to change how things are made and what they are made of. This is a huge responsibility—and an opportunity,’ says WDCD creative director Richard van der Laken. ‘With this book, we want to throw our weight behind those creatives who dare to imagine different ways of living, creating and consuming, all within the boundaries of our planet.’

Among them are trailblazers like Fernando Laposse (Mexico), whose project Totomoxtle brings together agricultural waste and indigenous crafts; the inimitable Yasmeen Lari (Pakistan), who builds with mud and lime to create shelters that are zero-carbon and zero-waste, and Studio Formafantasma (Italy), whose artwork Ore Streams explores the pitfalls and politics of electronics recycling. Never Waste A Good Crisis also features a wide array of emerging designers from around the world, from recent graduates like Valdís Steinarsdóttir (Iceland) and Carvey Maigue (Philippines), to the enterprising creatives behind projects like The Slum Studio (Ghana) and Sungai Watch (Indonesia). 

Project: Totomoxtle, Fernando Laposse (Mexico).

Project: Makli Cultural Centre, Yasmeen Lari (Pakistan).

Project: Ore Streams, Studio Formafantasma (Italy).

Project: The Slum Studio, Sel Kofiga (Ghana). Photo: Fibi Afloe.

One section of the book is dedicated entirely to the 16 winners of the global No Waste Challenge, a design competition initiated by WDCD and the IKEA Foundation. Here, we celebrate the most inspiring visions from an open call that garnered more than a thousand entries. Some are big-picture ideas that approach notions like waste and value through a long lens. Others hone in on pressure points closer to home, delivering small hacks to shift consumer habits or make waste disposal safer for those who need it most. From repair clubs to living coffins, these are the promising projects that are shaping the field of circular design today.

All together, these ideas serve as much-needed signposts for a new economy in the making. Each one is as much a reason to be optimistic, as it is an urgent call-to-action. After all, there is much work to be done. As design writer Alice Rawsthorn reminds us: ‘This is the moment, not just to tweak at things, but to think laterally about how our world should be redesigned.’ Let’s do it well.

Never Waste a Good Crisis was made possible thanks to the support of Fedrigoni Papers and Zwaan Lenoir printing. The book is now available for order here.

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