Learning from Nature: The Power of the Circular Economy – Part I
Well, we have to be honest here. Who created and organized our planet was also a great economist. If you think about nature, it is conceived to have no waste whatsoever.
Every living and growing being eats and produces energy, becomes food for another creature, and eventually, dying it converts into part of the soil again.
There is no landfill in nature, every living thing is interconnected and made with the specific purpose of being reused for a new scope.
This particular process that is at the root of our planet is called circular economy because, well, it is a circular system and it has never stopped or failed ever since millions of years.
Until the last century, when the human being manages to disrupt this intrinsic stability.
We've been on the planet for such a short time compared to anything that surrounds us, yet we've been able to transform the environment almost irreversibly.
Source: Internet (Amazon rainforest deforestation)
Our economy, and our modern thinking, to be completely accurate, is based on a linear economy.
What does it mean? Instead of following an endless circle that balances our ecosystem, we invented a model that takes, makes, uses and disposes of goods.
The first study about a circular economy versus a closed one was addressed by Kenneth Boulding in 1966, but since the year 2012 the concept started buzzing around.
Our aim is not bore you to death with economic thesis, or at least not only!
We believe that the topic belongs to Zero Waste as much as buying grocery in bulk, but it isn’t as easy as going for grocery.
We want to try to go through it together with you, so follow us to be sure to not miss any piece!
Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA and creator of the animated movie "The story of stuff", gave us one of the most effective and powerful quotes representing what is the final destination of this linear economy: <There is no such thing as "away". When you throw anything away it must go somewhere.>
And indeed it is true. Our linear economy is based on consumerism, on replacing old items with new items, more updated, more fashion, more.
Our products aren't made to be modular, to be reused, to be disassembled and refurbished. When they no longer meet our requirements, we simply throw them away.
However, image if "away" was your house, your living room, and everything you throw will be there in front of your eyes, accumulating and accumulating, more and more.
Source: French photographer Antoine Repesse’s project “#365, unpacked”, visualizing how 365kg of trash produced each year looks like.
Yes, this is what a linear economy is: we have limited resources and a limited world, but we treat it as it is unlimited.
Can a linear economy be longer sustainable and practicable? No, the planet is yelling the answer loud and clear.
We usually say that what goes around comes around, and since the world is a sphere so we have to start thinking of our system.
But how can be a circular economy be sustainable AND profitable?
And how does a circular economy apply to the real world?
Is there a single way to go?
The world we are living in is a complex one. Our society is no longer a one-subject topic, as sustainability doesn't only mean environment protection and a plastic-free world.
Circular economy holds also social inclusion, equality and women empowerment all around the world, it demands to change our political structure.
A circular economy is based on technology, engineering, design innovation, it includes rethinking the way we utilize products and approaching them as services instead.
Unfortunately, not all the countries are born equal, and they are not all at the same starting point, economically and politically.
Photo by Federica: Nanjing Railway Station
So far, China is playing a leading role in developing a cutting-edge strategy in the circular economy game. By 2030, with an eye open to the long run of 2040, China has already planned to switch to a circular economy system saving up to 12% of its forecasted GDP.
What are the opportunities? Stay tuned with us at Zer'0 Waste Shanghai to learn more.