The term circular economy is being used more and more in recent years, whether in business meeting or when talking about sustainability. Circular economy may be a recent trend, a ‘new’ alternative to the more wasteful linear economy, but many of its practices are nothing new and date back hundreds of years.
First, let’s talk about what are the crucial differences that set circular economy apart from linear economy and make it such an important part of sustainable development. Then, I want to share some of my favourite ways to engage in the circular economy concept and make it the new standard.
Circular vs. linear
In the past few decades, most businesses have been running on a linear economy concept – a system where resources make their way from one end to the other and are discarded. While this may have been considered the most profitable way (which it is only in some cases), it is very wasteful by design. Instead, circular economy keeps resources in rotation, designs waste out of the system and underpins sustainable development in the 21st century. Instead of focusing solely on what is most financially profitable, it builds social and natural, as well as economic, value.
Circular economy starts the minute a product is designed and continues as it makes its way through the lifecycle and is either reused, returned to the earth or reshaped to be used again. It works on a large and small scale alike and is being adapted by small and large companies alike from your local shops to, increasingly, large corporations.
So how can you support this concept and introduce more of its principles and sustainable development into your life and your local community?
1. Recycle (correctly)
Perhaps the most basic way to support circular economy is to recycle – and do it correctly. When we speak of recycling, it is important to also note that plastic can never truly be recycled, it can only be downcycled to make items such as garden furniture or piping, as it loses its quality. I have written a whole article about how problematic plastic recycling is – check it out if you would like to find out more about this! Compared to plastic, glass and metals can be recycled indefinitely, making them great materials for circular economy.
As for recycling correctly, local instructions almost always vary from region to region. Knowing those is crucial in making circular economy work, since properly sorted recycling does not require as much labour at the recycling facility, making it less expensive and easier to manage.
2. Buy second-hand
Shopping second hand before you buy anything new is a great way to use products that have already been made and give them a new life. You can buy anything from clothing to electronics pre-owned and doing so not only saves you money, but also largely decreases your impact on the environment.
With how often we reject our possessions in todays day an age, you can often buy items that are nearly new this way, saving them from ending up in the landfill and preventing valuable resources from going to waste.
3. Support brands selling upcycled products
It seems to be quite a trend to make new things out of waste, with many large companies taking to this option when employing circular economy principles and supporting sustainable development. From sneakers made from plastic bottles, through furniture made of repurposed wood, to vegan leather alternatives such as pineapple leather being made with what would become waste – upcycled products have been gaining in popularity.
While it does not mean that a brand selling upcycled products is the holy grail of sustainability and some such companies are still responsible for other unsustainable and unethical practices, it is a great step in the right direction.
4. Get your energy from renewable sources
Renewable energy is a big part of circular economy, since the concept stresses the importance of using renewable resources. What is the most effective renewable energy source will depend on the area you live in – a sunny country is ideal for solar power, while you will reap most benefits from wind turbines in a windy place.
You’ve got two main options when powering your home with energy from renewable sources: choose a sustainable energy supplier or go off the grid with your own solar panels or other technology. Going off the grid can save you more money in the long run but requires a larger initial investment. Sometimes, going for a sustainable supplier may be your only choice, for example if you live in an apartment.
5. Swap and borrow
A free and easy way for support circular economy that anyone can take part in is to swap and borrow what you need, instead of buying it. You can do this in many different ways, from calling up a friend to ask if you can borrow their heels for an evening, to organising clothes swaps in your local area.
Another way, which I read about in a book about hygge (a Danish wellbeing concept) is to organise dinner parties with friends, to which each of you brings an item from their home they no longer use and swaps with others who may have something they would like to try. It is also a great way to make others aware of circular economy and introduce them to the concept.
How many of the cars driving around cities have empty seats? And how many people are looking for a ride each day, spending money on taxis? A great way to add a little more circular economy to your life and support sustainable development is to carpool. You can start off by carpooling to work with colleagues who live in your area, or friends who are coming to the same event. By carpooling, you are making sure no resources (fuel in this case) are wasted and making them go a longer way, which aligns with circular economy perfectly.
However, there are also apps that let you carpool with people with empty seats in their car – take it as a more sustainable and cheaper taxi!
Circular economy has a lot to offer to the natural environment and different communities. As it is being employed more often and the switch from linear to circular is becoming more visible, supporting businesses running on this model or simply making choices that align with the circular economy philosophy are great ways to make the world a greener place. Where will you start?
A marketing and media student with a passion for all things sustainable and zero waste living. While studying, Lucie also works as a freelancer, writing articles about sustainability and helping eco-businesses with their marketing needs. In her writing, she hopes to inspire people to make small changes that can create a big difference in the world.\
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Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to have it all figured out in order to lead a sustainable lifestyle. In fact, it's better to make small conscious choices when possible, than none at all. We explore every topic under the sun around kindness to our environment, wildlife, other people and ourselves.