Ep 104: Could we grow a building?
How Biohm is using biotechnologies to advance the circular economy
This year on the Circular Economy Show Podcast we’ve heard from people working across many different industries, from farming to fashion, policy to plastics. In this episode, we explore some of our favourite moments from 2023. Thanks for joining us this year. We’ll be back in 2024 with more stories from the circular economy.
Pippa Shawley 0:03
Hello, and welcome to the Circular Economy Show Podcast and our final episode of the year. For this special episode, I've been joined by my colleague Seb, who's our content lead at the Foundation, who's gone through the 32 episodes we've recorded this year, and picked out some of his favourite moments. Welcome, Seb.
Seb Read 0:19
Thank you very much for having me, Pippa. And what a great year for the podcast 32 episodes. We've done some cool things we
Pippa Shawley 0:26
have. And we've had listeners from 181 territories around the world, from Nicaragua to Nigeria, from the US to the UK. So thanks for everyone that's listened so far and we hope you'll join us again next year. We've also had 170,000 downloads this year. So it's really nice that people are engaging with these stories from the circular economy.
Seb Read 0:47
And we've been nominated for a couple of awards, right?
Pippa Shawley 0:50
We've actually been nominated for five categories across two awards. So we were nominated for two categories in the Lovie Awards, and three in the International Women's Podcasting Awards.
Seb Read 1:00
Well done to us.
Pippa Shawley 1:01
Seb Read 1:01
But thank you to everyone who's listened to the podcast and made all of that possible. I love the idea that there's someone potentially sat in Nicaragua right now listening to my voice.
Pippa Shawley 1:11
It's pretty cool, right?
Pippa Shawley 1:14
Should we get started with some of your clips that you've picked out? What's your first one?
Seb Read 1:17
Yes, that's right, Pippa. So I was really looked back on the year and thought what, you know, what are the highlights, because I'm realising people might be coming up to that time of year when we've got a bit of a winter break coming up on our podcast, maybe you're looking for some things to catch up on or listen to over over your winter break. Hopefully, you're enjoying one. So the first clip is from our big food redesign series on the podcast. So we know that the food system is fundamentally linear. It's a big contributor to biodiversity loss, a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. And our question for that series was, is there a better way to produce food? And of course, there is, and the answer is circular economy design for food. So to understand a bit about what that means, what regenerating nature might mean and what circular design for food might be based on. Let's listen to this clip from Philippe Birker, from Climate Farmers and Reniera from the foundation's own team.
Philippe Birker 2:10
For me, it's a very simple one, regenerative agriculture is for me agriculture, which regenerates the soil health. That's it. Like essentially, it's just I always say, it's just the mindset shift from a focus on yield to a focus on soil health. If you are increasing your soil health, then you are regenerating your local ecosystem inadvertently.
So underlying all of this is this need to move away from this kind of linear extractive farming model? And to look to models of farming, that regenerate soil health that regenerate biodiversity, that bring back water quality, and don't disturb air quality. So really thinking about how do we enable produce to be grown? And that's both crops and livestock. How do we enable produce to be grown in systems that are regenerative? So we're looking at regeneratively produced ingredients. The second opportunity, we call them design opportunities, is thinking about diverse ingredients. So we know that today 60% of the calories that we consume come from four crops, four, four crops. And so we know that for nature to thrive, diversity is absolutely key. If you look at natural ecosystems that are full of lots and lots of different types of plants with different varieties of plants. And so diversification of ingredients, is one of the key ways in which we think that you can you can instil that in the design decision. So you might think about potatoes, for example. When you go into the supermarket and, don't about you, but you're faced with, I don't know, five or six different kinds of essentially white potatoes, occasionally, you might get a Red Rooster, they're really exciting. They roast very well. But out there, there are about four and a half 1000 varieties of potatoes. So if we think about the how many potatoes are produced, globally, if we could introduce some diversification into those think about the resilience that it would bring back into natural landscapes and the variety and the and the diversity that we would be able to be able to have. So diversifying ingredients is a really key part of the framework.
Seb Read 4:14
So circular design for food really is a pioneering idea that the foundation is propelling forward with many partners. And in that clip, an episode Raniera did go on to talk about some of the other strategies for circular design for food. So upcycled ingredients or lower impact ingredients, for example.
Pippa Shawley 4:32
I really loved making that series. I think it was really exciting to hear from people working on those solutions, but also making really delicious food and I was lucky enough to taste some of it as we went along. So I really hope everyone enjoyed listening to that. And if they want to listen to that full episode, it's episode 107 and will stick a link to it in the show notes.
Seb Read 4:50
And as you said, there's actually five... it's a series, it's a five part series and you heard the voices of Philippe and Raniera in that episode, but there's a whole host of different characters To listen to so if you enjoy the episode, maybe you watch the next four, listen to the next four.
Pippa Shawley 5:05
So that's food. And then you've also gone to look at our startup episodes. And what did you find?
Seb Read 5:10
Yeah, over the course of the year, we've interviewed many innovators doing different things within the circular economy. And so I've picked out just one episode which features Ehab who's the founder of Biome, a company that claims that one day, we might better grow our own buildings. Let's take a listen.
I started Biome to revolutionise the construction industry to demonstrate how there's so much knowledge that we can gain from nature's genius. And there's so much that we can learn from the bio technologies that exist in the natural world. And actually bringing that to industry can demonstrate how we can decarbonize and find a way towards a more bio electricity future. All of our materials and products and bio technologies are designed with circularity at heart. We are driven by a very simple philosophy to allow nature to lead innovation, and only have a positive or regenerative impact on everything we touch. And therefore everything that we created needs to have circular systemic and holistic approach built into its design. And the idea of creating circular construction comes with all kinds of challenges, because you need to create high performing materials that are also conducive to end of life solutions. So that balance is something that we've really perfected a Biome enabling material to last for the applications duration. Unlike some of the materials we see currently used in construction, which are designed to last hundreds of 1000s of years, but are only used in places like London for five or 10 years. So it's kind of a challenge to find that balance, but we've worked really hard on enabling it and making it work.
Pippa Shawley 6:56
What I really love about that, Seb, is that we often talk about regenerating nature and it's very easy to think about that in terms of food, where things are already growing in the landscape. But Biome is doing something very different there. And I think going back to listen to that episode is a real treat. So if you want to listen to that one, it's episode 104. And again, we'll put the links in the show notes. And Jess also went to speak to lots of other startups, didn't she?
Seb Read 7:20
Yes, so we've had a number of different Circular Economy startups featured on the podcast this year, Notpla, a seaweed based type packaging. Troquer, a resale marketplace, in Latin America and Back Market, a refurbished electronics provider and supplier.
Pippa Shawley 7:36
they're all really different and very exciting. But we also have held a big event this year, which is our Summit. And I think we often talk about the Summit on this podcast, but maybe we didn't really explain what it is. And you have quite an integral role in organising it. So can you tell us a little bit about that? Yeah.
Seb Read 7:52
So the Summit in 2023 is it's the foundation's kind of biggest annual event for its network. So it features people from our policy network, our business network, our wider NGO network, and as a kind of convening of 400 to 500 people in the day around critical issues related to the circular economy. And what's the latest narrative around the circular economy, actually, this year, in addition to that, and some of you may have seen this on our YouTube channel, we live streamed to kind of showcase exhibition style session, again, showing off many of the great innovations of circular economy. But the clip I've picked out is from that first section, which we repurposed as a podcast during the year.
Pippa Shawley 7:57
And it's with Es Devlin who has worked with people like Beyonce, and she's worked on the Olympic opening ceremonies and things like that. Maybe not such an obvious candidate for talking about the circular economy. So why did you want to get that sort of artists perspective in?
Seb Read 8:48
Yeah, so you're gonna hear Es in conversation with Francesca Gavin, who's also an art curator and author on the topic. You know, the challenge the circle home and the opportunity with the circular economy is that, yes, we need to get into the technical delivery, implementation of new product design or new service design, much like we've heard in some of the other examples in this episode of our podcast, we also need the ability to completely reimagine the future, we need to build ability to have a different worldview and to see things differently. And actually, in this podcast, they talk about a cognitive shift that's needed. And that's exactly why we wanted Es and Francesca on stage together to give that perspective of the role that art could play in inspiring change.
Pippa Shawley 9:32
Alright, let's take a listen.
Francesca Gavin 9:37
Another thing that I really think of a secure writer and a writer, is the importance of narrative and metaphor. I think so many times we live in a world where we are formed by our narratives. If you even think going back to something like Aristophanes, or like ancient Greek myths, these are like the archetypes that have fundamentally formed how human beings see themselves and how they function in the world, in particular our relationship to nature is very much formed by the enlightenment and this differentiation between the human and the natural world. And I'm curious with, from your experience, what your feelings are about how to find new narratives and new metaphors and that role.
Es Devlin 10:16
I think, also see, as the Greeks did the theatre as a rehearsal society, you know, that was the purpose of the Greek theatre was to rehearse situations so that those in the audience will be better prepared to encounter them. And some of the work that I've done, I was talking to you earlier about with the London Wildlife Trust, when I asked them specifically, what could an artist do to support their work? He said, Look, we can help with habitat conservation, and getting involved in policy and planning. But what we want artists to do is to make a habitat for non human species within the imagination of the humans. And it's just a basic thing that every time a species comes within your path, if you even know its name, then you make a room for it in your imagination. And that basic piece of just allowing habitats in the imagination is actually critical to the prevention of extinction of non human species.
Francesca Gavin 10:16
Yes, I think so. So that's really... I mean, I've done a lot of exhibitions around mushrooms, which have been immensely popular, like 1500, people came a day to see a mushroom show, which is quite a weird thing. But I think again, it's this need for looking, becoming aware that we are within a wider world. I know you've worked in that project with I think you said there were 15,000 Different species in humans were only one is that
Es Devlin 11:40
correct? It was it was an interesting question, because often I'm invited to make work that isn't about the nonhuman or the more than human. I'm often invited to work, make work around humans. So someone said to me, will you make a piece about London? And I said, Well, what about... Let's examine, you know, the species of Londoners. And of course, there are 15,000 species of Londoners of which one is human.
Seb Read 12:06
So one little behind the scenes nugget about what you just heard there is that I hosted the Summit for the Foundation. And obviously, I wasn't on stage during that conversation. But the you could have heard a pin drop in that room as those two were in having that conversation. Because they're such great storytellers and is very powerful, because that's exactly what they're talking about. They're talking about the power of narrative, whether that's performance on stage or through art, or through music, to capture people and shift people and we kind of felt it in the room in that moment.
Pippa Shawley 12:39
Yeah, definitely. And if you listen back to Episode 117, you can really hear all the different genres and different types of art forms that as refers to in her work to show that it's this like, cross idea thing that gives her all this inspiration.
Seb Read 12:57
She's a very inspirational person.
Pippa Shawley 12:58
Yeah, definitely. So do check that one out again. So that's it for 2023. Thanks for joining me Sb on this whistlestop tour through the last year of episodes.
Seb Read 13:09
Seb Read 13:09
you Pippa, and you're very inspirational person as well. And well done all the work you've done in the podcast this year, hosting it.
Pippa Shawley 13:14
Thank you very much. Well, we've got a quick break now. And then we're going to be back in 2024 with lots of new stories from the circular economy, including a quick look back at some other great stories that we might have missed along the way. So thank you so much for listening this year. And see you next year.
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