How we make stuff

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Can we do things differently

In nature, one animal’s waste is a resource to another. Of course, worms don’t have phones and polar bears don’t drive. But can we learn from nature and make our stuff by reusing materials over and over again?

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Can we do better than this?

A good question from Ellen MacArthur who sailed around the world and had to use resources as efficiently as possible.

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Get Loopy

What can we learn from living systems in the way we make our stuff?

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From lines to loop

Thinking in loops and turning waste into useful materials.

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The think chair

A chair made to be made again.

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Turning waste into usefull stuff

Connecting factories like a spider’s web.

Awesome Facts

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  • From about 1760 to 1830, lots of inventions changed our way of making stuff and this period is called the Industrial Revolution.
  • Before turning to industrial inventions, Richard Arkwright travelled around the country to collect discarded human hair to make wigs – a good use of waste!
  • In 2008, the UK produced about 288 million tonnes of waste: construction (35%), mining and quarrying (30%), commercial and industrial (23%), households (11%) and others (1%). Around half of all that waste ended up in landfill sites.
  • On average, each household in the UK produces over a tonne of waste every year. That’s the weight of a small car!
  • Our bins are just a tiny part of the waste that ends up in landfill sites. The rest is created when we extract raw materials and make stuff.
  • If everyone on Earth used as much stuff as the average person does in Europe, we would need 3 planets! But we’ve only got one!
  • In some countries,’ landfill miners’ are starting to dig out tonnes of valuable materials from waste tips, such as metals, plastic, paper and glass.


Download fun and original activities to encourage 7 to 12 year old children to develop their understanding of a 'closed loop' economy and to stimulate discussion and debate.

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Based on the original book ‘How We Make Stuff’ by Christiane Dorion, Templar Publishing, 2012.
Website text by Christiane Dorion - Design by Harriet Pellereau.

© 2012 Ellen MacArthur Foundation - Illustration © Beverley Young - Text © Christiane Dorion