How making our ‘economy’ circular can help save the planet while also creating genuine economic growth.

Adam Millett
Jul 19, 2019 · 12 min read
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Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

The word ‘economy’ can be defined as the
‘careful management of available resources’,
or the ‘sparing or careful use of something’.
Think about that.

The Non-Economy

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This is a photograph of the average climate change denier doing some research.

So yes, we really do love our stuff, and a lot of the time, the slogans on the stuff might rhyme, but the fact is, when it comes to rhyming with nature, the ‘stuff’ just doesn’t. (All the rhyming in this paragraph was done partly to make a point, but mainly because, well, it just happened okay? Good day.) (Okay, the ‘Good day’ there was in no way an effort to say farewell, or goodbye, it was just for the sake of rhyming; I’m not done with the article yet, I’ve barely even started.) (I just farted.) Let’s move on.

You know what does rhyme with nature though? Circular Economy, that’s what. Okay so not in the literal ‘Peter Piper picked a woolly sweater’ kind of way, but in an ‘ecological harmony’ kind of way. See the picture I painted so rhythmically above (I just have bloody rhyme on the mind today, apologies) of pollution and destruction and environmental disgust is a picture created by ‘the linear economy’, which is the model most of us use to produce and consume things right now. Under the linear economy model, sometimes referred to as the ‘take-make-waste model’, a product is manufactured, used for a short time, and then disposed of, resulting in resource-guzzling greenhouse gas emitting damage during production, and physical waste after use. So beautiful, wonderful, preciously finite resources get plundered from the earth, turned into our little toys and trinkets in an environmentally destructive manner, and then, after a short time, get thrown on the shit-heap with the rest of the shit to clog up the lands and oceans for all eternity. Not the most nature-friendly system we have going on is it?

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The ‘linear economy‘ process of resource extraction and waste.

The linear economy model isn’t really an ‘economy’ at all, according to the definition of the word, so how do we build an economy that does fulfil that definition? Enter, the circular economy.

An Economy based on Nature

In nature nothing ever goes to waste. When a leaf falls from a tree, it breaks down and is used to fertilise the ground. A dead animal becomes food for another animal, which then dies and feeds another. There is no waste involved, and everything operates in a big replenishing cycle, or, you could even say, if you were feeling frisky, in a circle! That is basically how the circular economy works.

How does The Circular Economy work?

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Here’s a nice diagram I found which explains it pretty well, but do read those paragraphs I wrote below it as well, they’re hilarious I promise!

As complicated as the diagram above may seem, the Circular Economy is actually rather simple. There are three main attributes you need to remember, and I have been kind enough to ramble on about them all below.

1. Products are designed for Zero Waste

Around 80% of environmental impacts are determined at the design stage.

2. ‘Consumers’ become ‘Users’

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This is a photo of how you will feel when you realise you can stop leasing your woolly jumper when the weather get’s warm and lease a summer outfit or two instead, for no extra cost! Wooooo, it’s like magic!

3. Clean energy is used wherever possible

When you learn about how the circular economy works it just makes so much sense on so many levels. It’s better for the planet, better for people, and it’s even better financially! (Which is good, because it’s finance that really gets the ball rolling on these things.) Here are some of the benefits of going circular.

What are the benefits of a Circular Economy?

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Above all else, moving to a Circular Economy can stop this from happening. Yes, okay, the picture might be a little dramatic, but you know what I mean. There are also economic and financial benefits from going circular as well.

Saving the planet

Boosting the economy!

Using resources more effectively could increase the size of the global economy by $2 trillion by 2050, so the benefits of going circular really are economic as well as environmental.

Contrary to the idea that to save the planet we’ll have to completely demolish the economy and go back to living in the woods and gathering nuts and berries (which I actually think would be tremendous fun), going circular can actually boost local communities and local jobs, both through its potential to create new markets and products and its emphasis on creating local material loops and shortening supply chains. The International Resource Panel, part of the UN’s Environment Programme, says that using resources more effectively could increase the size of the global economy by $2 trillion by 2050, so the benefits of going circular really are economic as well as environmental.

Good for business

Good for Humans

In my mind, the circular economy is the future, but what really does make me optimistic is that this isn’t just some distant theoretical concept that’s never actually going to happen, it’s already happening, and seems to be gathering speed as we speak! Here are just a few examples of how the economy is starting to turn in circles today.

Real World Examples

Construction Europe

Adidas

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The Adidas Futurecraft.Loop shoe is designed to be 100% recyclable, so all the raw materials that make up the shoe can be used again and again and again, to produce shoe after shoe after shoe. It sounds hard to believe but it’s true. Woo!

Adidas has created a running shoe, christened the ‘Futurecraft.Loop’, that can be 100% recycled, over and over and over again. Unlike traditional shoes, which are constructed from diverse materials, the Futurecraft.Loop is made entirely from TPU, from the sole to the laces, and its various elements are fused together with heat, so there’s no glue or stitching required. So once the shoe is worn out, or the person ‘leasing’ the show fancies a newer, shinier, prettier shoe, it can be broken down into pellets, which will then be used to make a brand new Futurecraft.Loop sneaker. This can be done over and over and over again, meaning that no new raw materials will be needed to create shoes in the future. The materials that make up the shoe you buy in 2021 when the shoes are released (obviously you don’t have to buy a pair, but it might be a good idea!) can be used repeatedly, meaning that you can keep running and running and running for years and years to come in brand spanking new beautiful shoes, but the actual raw material in the shoes will stay the same. Now that’s pretty nifty. This may seem like a small development right now, I mean it’s just one shoe design, but don’t underestimate the influence it is likely to have on the industry. Adidas are a big big player, and if this proves to be a financial success, which I really think it will be, circularity is likely to proliferate through the fashion industry as if it’s sprinting at top speed while wearing lightweight sustainably produced running shoes! (That one was bad, I know.)

Spotify, AirBNB, Uber etc etc etc

Into the Future

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The future is buzzing.

So that’s it then, I’ve said my bit, talked my shit, now it’s time to split. (I’ve still got the rhyming bug, after writing an entire article, interesting, it’s like I started with rhyming, wrote all the paragraphs in between, and now I’ve managed to come: full circle!) Goodness, I’ll stop now. Do spread the word though, the circular economy is the future.

As Buzz Lightyear would say if he was designed to be 100% recyclable, manufactured and distributed using only clean energy, and leased by his lucky owner for a short time before being traded in for the Spanish speaking version in a manner that requires no extra raw materials to be harvested;

to circularity, and beyond!

And if you’ve managed to make it this far, for one, I’m absolutely astonished, and for two, fair flooping play to you! As a reward, here’s a tremendously concise video that pretty much sums up everything it just took me 2500+ words to explain. I could have just put the video at the start of course, and saved you the bother, but where’s the hilarity in that? Enjoy, and Bon Voy.

A wonderful visual explanation of how the circular economy works.

About the Author

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Adam Millett is a freelance writer, blogger, and published poet with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help sustainable businesses tell the world their stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.
Visit awallofhope.com if you want to read his blog.

The Open Mind

Open your mind, empower yourself, change the world.

Adam Millett

Written by

Freelance writer for hire with a passion for sustainability. Check out awallofhope.com for my blog and wordchameleon.com for details about my writing services.

The Open Mind

Open your mind, empower yourself, change the world.

Adam Millett

Written by

Freelance writer for hire with a passion for sustainability. Check out awallofhope.com for my blog and wordchameleon.com for details about my writing services.

The Open Mind

Open your mind, empower yourself, change the world.

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