Schools & Colleges

Developing a range of tried and tested resources that educators can use in their classrooms and working with curriculum organisations to embed circular economy as a key focus in schools.


Browse and download our educational resources, videos, graphics, articles and case studies using the circular economy resource map. The map has been created to help you make interdisciplinary links between ideas and subjects.

Why teach circular economy in schools and colleges?

The young people in schools and colleges today will be entering an economy which is changing very rapidly. Changes in work, how we produce and consume, and the impact of innovative technologies are all set against resource and environmental pressures.

It is important that young people are economically literate and able to compare and contrast different approaches to the economy. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation works with its university and business partners on the basis that instead of a ‘linear’ take-make-dispose economy, working in the short term, a ‘circular’ economy makes more sense. If we are searching for new kinds of prosperity, accompanied by social and environmental benefits, the circular economy can offer us the rich feedback and 'closed loops' we need in the long term.

Thinking in systems

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation adopts a systems-thinking approach in its work in developing and sharing this economic framework with schools and colleges. Why? Because the linear economy is more than an economic idea: it is a legacy of 19th century ‘mechanistic’ thinking. Contemporary science is all about feedback, since all real world systems - the economy amongst them - are complex systems endlessly changing. It's also because the way we understand education is participatory and dynamic.

Where does the circular economy fit into your school or college?

  • Economics - investigating alternate systems
  • Business - new business models, asset tracking, reverse supply chains
  • Geography - resources, geopolitics, agriculture
  • Sciences - resources, material properties, energy, effective bio-cycles
  • Design Technology - product and system design, emerging technologies
  • ICT - Internet of Things, asset tracking
  • Environmental Science - regenerating the biosphere

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, you might have your own idea of how to teach the circular economy in these or other subjects. Ultimately, the circular economy represents systems change. We believe that systems-thinking, and within that the circular economy, should be embedded at the heart of an interdisciplinary curriculum. Among other partners in education, we are currently exploring many of these ideas with the United World Colleges and the International Baccalaureate.

Feel free to contact us to discuss any teaching and learning ideas you might wish to share.

Introduction to the circular economy

The Re-thinking Progress video explores how, through a change in perspective, we can redesign the way our economy works – designing products that can be ‘made to be made again’ and powering the system with renewable energy. It highlights how we can build a restorative economy, with creativity and innovation.

View the video with accompanying lesson ideas on TED Ed here.