Running around in circles can save the planet. Yes, it's a bold statement. The health benefits are apparent. But that's not quite what I am are talking about here. This article is about quality furniture, the circular economy, British-made desktop power modules, and the milkman.

circular economy approach in the furniture industry has been occupying conversation in the furnify offices. We love filling the warehouse with high-quality furniture solutions like reconfigurable bench desks and office meeting pods. All these furniture products have a long lifecycle. They are made to adapt as your needs change, and everything is reusable, recyclable and manufactured from recycled materials. It's the kind of furniture we sell with pride and confidence.

Unfortunately, most manufacturers run on a linear economy model. They produce cheap, sexy pieces that fly off the shelves into fancy modern offices and, shortly thereafter, becomes yet another piece of cheap, sexy garbage. Circular and linear economic models have been a hot topic of discussion over the last year, and it is still misunderstood.

The circular economy isn't a new model. I remember the milkman dropping off a fresh bottle of British milk every morning. With him went yesterday's empty bottle to be sterilised and refilled for tomorrow. The milk was always fresh, and wastage was limited to the occasional broken glass bottle. Even better, if the milk did get sour, you could always pour it into the compost heap to become plant-food for the compost or allotment.

This is what a functioning circular economy looks like:

Circular Economy image:

The Circular Economy in Detail by Elen  Macarthur Foundation

Today we operate on a linear economy model where everything is seen as "consumables". There is no more friendly neighbourhood milkman. BBC's Sam Alwyine-Mosely reports that "in 1975, 94 per cent of British milk arrived with the clink of glass bottles on the doorstep. But by 2016, that figure was just 3 per cent." The status quo is to buy our milk in disposable plastic bottles or disposable plastic-lined cartons. It's cheap and convenient, but the materials to make those containers were mined or harvested from the earth. It was designed to be single-use and manufactured for one purpose. And it was always destined to be trash.

Linear Economy by Supply Chain School

If we are lucky, most of those single-use milk bottles and cartons end up in a recycling plant, which is the linear economy's way of painting themselves green. But this is reality and most of it goes to a landfill, gets incinerated into toxic gas, or floats around the ocean, polluting the planet for decades to come. A plastic milk bottle is one thing, but everything from telephones to toasters, to TVs are "consumables" these days. And all of it becomes pollution.

So, that is the milkman's difference between circular and linear economic models. Since we don't sell milk on furnify.co.uk, let's look at a real example.

Desktop Power Modules

Power sockets – the things we need to charge the things we love. From the moment employees enter the office, they start consuming electricity. Desktops monitors, laptop computers, and the kettle fire up in the first five minutes. Then the smartphone, Fitbit and power bank follow suit.

Power plugs and charging stations are arguably more critical than the desks and chairs. An employee sitting on the floor with a laptop and a power plug can get a lot more done than one sitting at a desk without any electricity.

At the furnify office, we recently learnt that a top-rated, good looking and affordable power product that we stock on the site is not quite what the supplier promised. Built on a linear model and imported from China, it certainly looks sexy. But the failure rates are immense, the sockets aren't upgradable to keep up with technological advancement, and all the sexy in the world won't accept a chunky iMac charger. Beautiful design does not make up for shoddy engineering and manufacturing.

And thus, upon a fiercely mild British morning, we set out to find a power accessory that holds lofty the electrifying standards of great engineering, robust manufacture, and… sexiness. {Insert inappropriate growl here and provide number for Sally in HR}

That is when we came across a range of high-quality, British-made power sockets from OE Electrics, designed and manufactured on the circular economy model. What does that mean?

These power modules are designed to last. 

The best thing you can do for the environment is to buy something that will last a long time. Even if it is hard-core moulded plastic, a quality unit lasting 30 years is a lot more environmentally friendly than a flimsy piece that needs replacement every two years.

Following this first circular economy principle, the OE Electrics units are reliable and robust. They are 100% tested before they leave the factory. Constructed from durable materials like the aluminium chassis on the Panda Power Module, these units also boast hardy, gold-plated USB sockets. The Type-A connectors are specifically manufactured for a minimum of 5000 insertions and Type-C for a minimum of 10,000.

But technology moves fast, and that means Type-A USB tech will be obsolete before the connector wears out. But never fear because:

These power modules are designed to be upgraded. 

The key phrase here is "modular plug-and-play technology." The OE Electrics desk-mounted power modules don't require qualified technicians to upgrade. Any component of their Quikfit range can be replaced by any member of your staff with their simple instructions. As technology advances, you can purchase replacement modules from furnify, fit it yourself, and return the out-dated components for re-use and recycling. 

But what happens if something comes along that changes the game? Well… 

These modules are designed to be refurbished.

Obsolete or malfunctioning modules are sent back to us, and we return it to the manufacturer. They repair the units, replace out-dated technology, and re-use the materials to manufacture a new one.

Circular economy companies design every iteration to be compatible with past models. When you put a Panda Power Module in your office, you can be sure that future products will be designed with previous models in mind. Your purchase is future-proofed and upgradeable for many, many years to come.

But what then of that iMac charger that wouldn't fit? 

These modules are designed to be versatile. 

On the Ply and Panda Power Modules, the mounting brackets leave enough space to accept any plug… including a chunky iMac charger. The Poco and Pearl models feature rotated plug sockets to make a bit more space. That's what you get when components are both designed and engineered.

That is also why…

These power modules are designed using less harmful materials.

Along with being drop-dead gorgeous, units like the Ply Power Module, have minimal impact on the environment when it is discarded. It uses less plastic since its casing is biodegradable plywood.

We are really excited to offer future-looking, environmentally conscious products to our inventory. It makes it easy to recommend quality products with trust and confidence. In their own words, 

"When purchasing OE Electrics, you can be sure the product you have chosen is:

· Recyclable

· Future Proofed

· Replaceable

· Environmentally Friendly

· Repairable

· Long Term Cost Saving

· Reliable"

At furnify, we really like that attitude. We are fighting for the return of the milkman! Even if that milkman now delivers high-quality electrical components. We lap it up like the cyborg, cat-masters of the future.

In a very happy turn of events, the milkman is making a comeback. In that BBC report I mentioned earlier, "Parker Dairies says it's had nearly a thousand new customers [last] year. They're selling more than 4,000 extra glass pints of milk a week." I can proudly say "Well done, Britain," and pat myself on the back, since the furnify team gets their milk from a Parker Dairies milkman.

Now let's see how many other future-looking, environmentally sustainable furniture suppliers we can find to make this planet a smarter place.

22 Jan - By Hein de Vries