In recent years, it seems as though we are suddenly on the brink of an environmental crisis. Extreme weather events, concerns over the depletion of limited natural resources, and a growing gulf in the quality of living across nations have brought matters to a head.
But these developments aren’t new. They were forecast decades ago based on evidence of our unsustainable practices. We have simply been tiptoeing around the precipice all this time, and it’s only now that general awareness has caught up to real-world consequences.
Businesses are often guilty of practicing a ‘take, make, waste’ model of linear economy. To address this widespread issue, a circular economy (CE) has been advocated. But there will inevitably be resistance to such change, and we can start overcoming that by implementing a CE within our homes.
A model that doesn’t waste
Every economy desires growth, but most of our economic models couple growth with the consumption of natural resources. For much of humanity’s history across the globe, that wasn’t a problem.
Today, however, the whole world is networked through globalization. Advances in healthcare have improved our life expectancy and reduced child mortality, while agricultural productivity has also vastly increased.
Taken together, these factors have created a large population that can access and consume more resources than ever. And many of those resources, such as clean water, forests, fossil fuels, or metal ores, are either finite or slow to replenish by natural processes.
The problem with a linear economy is that it consumes far more resources than necessary and frequently outputs too much waste. CE models solve this by designing the entire system to regenerate natural resources and minimize waste by turning every stage of products and byproducts into a possible value generation source.
The CE concept has been gaining traction in recent years, but it has existed for several decades. Unfortunately, only a few organizations and leaders have demonstrated the necessary awareness of issues involved, together with the willingness to undertake such comprehensive changes to their operations.
In any organization, there will be major obstacles to overcome in implementing the transition towards a CE model. You’ll find financial, structural, operational, and technological barriers to change. But the first and biggest roadblock is one of attitude.
People themselves are a significant source of inertia to change. An innovation such as the CE requires that people recognize opportunities to improve. They must also develop and implement those new ideas through interactions with others.
Practicing change at home
An informed, effective, and responsible leader can move their organization’s needle towards developing CE. But you only have to survey the current landscape to see how few companies are truly operating on these principles.
Leadership won’t be enough. A collective shift towards CE has to happen, starting at the individual level. And you can make a big difference by practicing CE at home.
How much of your needs can be achieved with the minimum of resources? For instance, the simple matter of illuminating your outdoor spaces at night can be more effectively accomplished with cost-effective wallpack LEDs.
Taking things a step further, you can start saying no to unnecessary consumption, especially when goods are produced with a single use of resources in mind. Most forms of plastic packaging are a common example.
Buying second-hand items and repurposing your waste through methods such as compost also helps to keep resources in use for longer. Sharing resources, such as power tools, with your neighbors is a form of collaborative consumption that reduces demand for new products.
Put CE into practice in your own life. It’s the best way to convince more people to practice responsible consumption and eventually transform entire organizations.