Circular Economy is not some abstract model of the future, it’s a term for a new type of economy that’s based on different practices and thinking than the current economy based on linear one-way material flows of make-use-waste. Currently 9% of the world is circular. Lifestyle and business practices contributing to circular economy are already taking place, often making perfect sense.
If you have a subscription to Spotify or Netflix, if you use reusable bottle, cup, bag or straw, you are already doing it. If you use Uber, Lift, Car2Go, if you car-pooled and stayed at Airbnb apartment, you are already doing it. If you have your clothes repaired or altered to fit you better, if you had your shoes resoled or if you rented a dress instead of buying a new one for that special one-off occasion, you are already doing it. If you swapped your energy supplier for the one providing renewable energy such as wind or solar, you are already doing it. If you got creative with cooking instead of throwing away the leftovers in your fridge, you are already doing it. If you support your local farmers when buying veggies and fruits, you are already doing it. If you participated on a clothes swap, old records sale, borrowed a drill, sold old clothes or passed it onto someone who could still benefit from it, you are already doing it!
The point is, the chances are most of us already participating on activities creating this type of economy based on dematerialization: extending product life, recovering resources, renewable resources, using product as a service and utilizing sharing platforms.
Some of the concepts are not new at all – sharing, passing on clothes, using reusable bag, enjoying coffee from a porcelain mug, being smart about food, shopping at the local markets, drinking tap water, renting a car, renting a wedding dress, renting ski equipment of a bike when travelling to a city such as Amsterdam or Copenhagen (and the list goes on).
Some concepts are new – such as having apps enabling us to connect to a wide community – be it platforms where we can buy secondhand clothes, call a taxi, rent a house, borrow a projector for movie night, listen to music, process the payment, pick up food or communicate. Or rise of new technology enabling extracting fibers such as cotton and polyester and making it into a new yarn, creating yarn from old fishing nets and plastic bottles, modular design enabling easier disassembly and replacement of the parts, smart technology making several activities and processes more efficient and effective, measurements and connectivity making our life easier, safer and benefits more accessible. Innovation at its best.
While the practices above are a routine for some, it’s not adopted by everyone yet. Habits and business models based on circularity are a way to avoid dependency on limited resources and limit pollution creation. It is a business opportunity where the value creation is decoupled from materiality. It’s about being CONSCIOUS – aware of the impacts of our actions and taking responsibility for them. We have to realize that our actions are impacting others and the environment around us in a big picture. Many people globally are involved in supply chain necessary for many products we use on a daily basis – clothes, food, cosmetics, electronics. Circular Economy has many benefits that could help us to cut emissions, restore and regenerate natural ecosystem, create better transparency, eliminate waste and improve social conditions.
Yes, we have a long way to go to change the way companies operate and the way we consume. It’s however great to see many front-runners doing it already.
Yes, regulation needs to be in place to incentivize the good practices and penalize the ones creating negative impact – be it an environmental or social.
Important is to realize that we all have a role to play and many people are already taking steps into the right direction. We decide on the direction and speed every day with our actions – behavior and purchases. Let’s choose quality over quantity. Let’s get the best out of what we already have. Circular Economy is PRACTICAL and we are already a part of it. Let’s DO IT more.