The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected economies from the local to the global and we can rebuild our economy using old destructive methods or rebuild it in a way that future generations can benefit. Everyday there are more calls to reshape our economic systems to respect the environment more while increasing profits, and we can. The circular economy is all about both local profits and global environmental protection. Over at the World Economic Forum they have outlined a few ways we can speed up our shift to a more sustainable economic structure.
2. Transforming consumption
A step further along the value chain, Transforming Consumption addresses the reality that we currently consume1.75 times more resources each year than the Earth can naturally regenerate,and we are on course tomore than double resource use by 2050. Here, innovators are working to conceptualize new models of circular consumption, including product-as-a-service, product-use extension (e.g. repairs, secondary marketplaces), and sharing platforms.Algramois a Chilean start-up whose omni-channel, cross-brand platform technology enables brands and retailers to sell goods to consumer using smart reusable packaging for the lowest possible prices. Algramo’s packaging distribution system incorporates Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to enable innovations such as their patented Packaging as a Wallet technology and IoT-connected vending machines. It is estimated that converting 20% of plastic packaging into reuse models presentsa $10 billion opportunity, making rethinking packaging both a significant business priority in addition to having environmental imperative.
We all know that plastics are bad for the earth and the oceans. Indeed, a study published last month found that plastic was found in the deepest ocean dwelling animals. Obviously that’s not good, but what we as individuals can do some good for the planet by removing plastics from our lives. It’s easier than you think. Over at Fast Company they have an easy guide to get you started on using less plastic.
No more packaged fruit: There’s no reason for produce to be packaged in plastic. (I’m looking at you, Trader Joe’s.) Most groceries sell their fruit and vegetables by weight, so just buy your items piecemeal if you can. When you get home, you can give your produce a wash when you’re preparing it. Eco-friendly brand Full Circle has a very handy veggie scrubber ($5) I keep by the sink. Stock up on reusable containers and wraps: Clear out your Ziploc and Saran wrap drawer, and fill it with reusable versions. I now pack my daughter’s snacks in reusable Lunchskin bags (starting at $5) or paper sandwich bags ($4). They come in cute patterns, which is an extra perk for the toddler set.
Zero waste living seems like an impossibility given the amount of packaging everything is put in. Ordering a small item can lead to 10x the packaging of the item itself. The use of packaging seem so out of control that we can’t avoid it. We can.
Back in 2010 a UK based family created only one bin of trash throughout the year. In 2012 we looked at a town in Japan that already practices zero waste living. In the years since it’s actually gotten easier to practice a zero waste lifestelyl. Stores are popping up that are reducing their waste to save costs and the environment by providing customers with alternatives to recent packaging trends.
For most zero-waste shops, the pitch is simple: Customers arrive with their own packaging materials — jars, tote bags, whatever, or buy one of the jars on sale at the store, weigh them, and then subtract the weight of the receptacle from the weight of the goods added to get the final price. That way, nothing ends up in a landfill, at least on the customer’s end.
For the business itself, however, things are more complicated. Owners, who are responsible for the shipment of all products, are tasked with finding ways to reduce the carbon footprint and waste of the complicated process of shipping goods, and some goods are more high-maintenance than others.
Slavoj Zizeck is a modern thinker that has done a great job of critiquing the overarching assumptions in our society when it comes to power dynamics and the insidiousness of neoliberalism. In the video above his views on capitalistic consumption are summed up rather nicely. It’s worth the ten minute coffee break to watch it. Just be conscious of where you get your coffee from.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle is a mantra heard time and time again. Yet, not everyone follows it (remember that they are in that order for a reason: reduce what you consume in the first place, then reuse what you can, and recycle the rest). It can be easy though. When you do buy stuff (remember that you should try not to buy things – reduce) buy recycled because there are a ton of reasons from energy consumption to sending a message. Over at Grist they compiled a compendium of reasons to buy recycled.
Still, I’d encourage you to continue buying the 100-percent recycled stuff if you can — for foil as well as any other product — for so many reasons. Recycled content saves natural resources, so we can mine fewer metals, cut down fewer trees, and tap less petroleum. It uses less energy to produce, sometimes dramatically so; recycled aluminum can be whipped up with 95 percent less power than virgin aluminum. Recycled material slashes pollution and saves water, too. And let’s not forget it prevents our consumer castoffs from languishing away in a landfill.