Transition to Circular Economy: The Role of Education & Entrepreneurship

On April 26, 2024, The Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB) hosted a session for students, researchers, professionals and representatives from the business sector at the AUEB Amphitheatre in Athens, Greece. The event, which was organised and hosted by Athena Research Centre was also available to attend via live streaming.

The event was linked to the TICHE Academy (Training Innovation for Circularity & Holistic Economies; Erasmus+) project.

Event summary

The shift towards circular societies signifies a pivotal shift in our pursuit of sustainable development, as it entails the efficient utilisation of resources, the reduction of waste, and the mitigation of environmental impact. Education plays a pivotal and indispensable role in this paradigm shift by cultivating within individuals a sense of accountability, ingenuity, and sustainability.

This event investigated the convergence of education, entrepreneurship and circularity, examining how businesses and educational institutions can enable people to catalyse the transition towards circular economy.

By means of an extensive array of viewpoints contributed by educators, start-ups and industry leaders, participants will acquire valuable knowledge regarding the profound capacity of education to mould a future that is more environmentally sustainable. Our vision is a future where education acts as a catalyst to foster the development of resilient, equitable, and regenerative societies.

The event was opened by Prof. Phoebe Koundouri, Professor at the at the Athens University of Economics and Business and Technical University of Denmark, who gave a keynote speech on sustainability transition. Then, Ms. Lydia Papadaki, PhDc, researcher, ATHENA RC, and Athens University of Economics and Business presented the TICHE Academy and its key results and outcomes.

Following on, four businesses from the food, construction, textile and fashion industries presented their work to showcase the applicability of the circular economy framework:

  • Using their innovative business models, Mr. Nasos Makios, European Climate Pact Ambassador and Environmental Manager in the family business “KLIMIS”, presented how KLIMIS is implementing in success circular bioeconomy for more than 30 years.
  • Ms.Laura Kyriazopoulou, co-founder at FoodBag and Ms. Antigoni Chariessa Vasilopoulou, Sales & Sustainability Specialist at FoodBag, presented how food waste can be eliminated.
  • Mr. Jimmy Nicolaides, Co-Founder Swap planet, showcased how Swap planet is empowering parents to embrace sustainable practices by offering a clothing, book, and toy exchange platform that saves them money while reducing waste.
  • Ms. Valentina Vasilatou, Owner & Designer at VV Conscious Collections, who through her designs, she advocates for fashion as a force for innovation, conservation, and awareness. Additionally, she creates abstract patterns of sea creatures, introducing new animal prints into the fashion world.
  • Mr. Konstantinos Liatzas, Environmental Engineer, MSc “Environment & Development,” and Mr. Jason Giraud, PhDc at CastorC, presented the initiative Piraeus Maker Space, which provides state-of-the art tools available to citizens and innovators. 

The event closed with a panel discussion in which the assembled companies and hubs shared their experience in terms of their path so far towards circular economy. Also, the obstacles that circular Greek enterprises face and how the educational frameworks influence consumer behaviour to become more circular in nature.

In total, 78 people registered for the event, with 17 attending online and 51 in person.

Participants noted the event’s inclusive atmosphere and how the presenters’ varied backgrounds demonstrate that circular transition is attainable if we genuinely act from a desire to effect change. They also appreciated how the circular economy provides solutions to issues associated with sustainable development, and how education can catalyze this transition. 

Participants appreciated the content of the event, the quality of the presentations and the experience and professional competence of the speakers, and most affirned they would participate again in a similar event.

The event succeded in capturing the attention of both consumers and students, convincing an increasing number of people of the importance of incorporating sustainability and circularity into every aspect of our lives. This will motivate them to participate in subsequent similar initiatives and share the knowledge gained about sustainable development and the circular economy with their peers. Going forward, others are now more likely to seek out training programs relating to the circular economy.

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