What does a circle Have to do with saving the planet?
Updated: Jan 28, 2020
As wives, mothers and daughters of aging parents, women comprise the majority of caretakers of home and hearth. We want the best for our families so they can be healthy, whole and happy. As such, I think we typically carry values such as sustainability, balance, regeneration and integrity in our hearts. Yet, have you ever felt trapped sometimes by the choices you need to make to feed your family, keep your household running, stay within budget and yet also stay true to your values? It’s not easy.
We are part of a complex system. Our society runs on a system of commerce where goods and services are exchanged for money. It’s been like this for hundreds of years. Alongside that a linear economic model has grown whereby we --> take (natural resources) --> make (all manner of goods and services) and --> waste - - dispose when no longer of use. How can we get the most for the least amount of cost/effort/time? How can we create a market for excess production capacity? While this model has built many countries into economic powerhouses, it has too often, downloaded the social and environmental impacts of decisions onto future generations.
When I set out my initial vision in the EWC back in March 2019, I was compelled to act on the plastic waste crisis that humankind has created. When I began to research the topic area I discovered that new technologies and approaches are tackling the problem to a certain degree. What got me really excited was the new thinking emerging to make step changes to the system we find ourselves in.
A circular economy aims to redefine growth based on three principles: design out waste and pollution; keep products and materials in use and regenerate natural systems. 1 It’s about fundamentally redefining the way we produce and consume as a society.
The circular economy makes me hopeful that there are solutions to slowing down and reversing some of the environmental damage we’ve wreaked upon our planet, because there is a business case for it. According to Accenture Strategy2, there are global business opportunities in the trillions (T) of dollars by ELIMINATING WASTE OF:
resources - use of renewable energy and introduction and use of bio-based fuel, chemicals and materials - - a $1.7 T opportunity
lifecycles - boost remarketing, remanufacturing and refurbishing while building products and assets to last - - a $0.9 T opportunity
capacity - increase sharing, co-owning, co-using and other forms of resource pooling - - $0.6 T
embedded value - energy recovery, component harvesting, recycling, upcyclng - - $1.3 T.
That’s a lot of zeros: 1,000,000,000,000! Equally important are the opportunities to shift our mindset from being product consumers to resource stewards; to supporting brands that offer transparency and accountability for their resource use. According to Bloomberg3, women drive 70-80% of all purchasing. We have the power. If you’d like to learn more, watch this space for future articles on food, fashion, transportation and accommodations where circular economy principles are at play.
1. Ellen MacArthur Foundation. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/concept
2. Lacy, P. Rutqvist, J. (2015). Waste to Wealth, The Circular Economy Advantage. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.