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🦉 10x curiosity - Towards a Circular Economy

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🦉 10x curiosity

November 6 · Issue #231 · View online

🦉 A weekly sample of links that made me think 🤔


Thinking…
This is also published across on my Medium page
Over the entire history of planet earth, the past 200 years of human development is an aberration compared to the way nature has evolved - especially as it relates to dealing with waste. Humans have driven our progress through these years through a slash and burn linear economy - one that takes resources, consumes them through a short cycle and then discards them to landfill - generally with the intent to not use them again. Nature illustrates that systems and organisms that exhibit this behaviour cannot sustain themselves over the long term and inevitably die out, often along with their host.
It is clear that the way we live cannot be sustained.
We might get away with it for many more years - critics of the environment movement generally are quick to point out that many of the worlds metrics are getting better and the nihilistic predictions from doomsayers in the 70’s of impending population collapse and famine have been spectacularly wrong.
Whilst this may be the case, it remains true that at some point resources run out or the cost to extract them starts to become more expensive and less favourable vs the cost of better design or recycling. There appears to be many sign that finally we are starting to see in many aspects of the economy that this crossover has begun. The circular economy is starting to come into its own.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ― R. Buckminster Fuller

Linear vs Circular Economy (Matthews)
Linear vs Circular Economy (Matthews)
Golsteijn highlights in a well researched set of articles that:
The ambition of the circular model is to keep resources in circulation for as long as possible. This means replacing scarce resources with fully renewable, recyclable or biodegradable inputs, thereby reducing resource consumption, waste and the depletion of non-renewable resources. When products reach the end of their functional life, useful elements should be extracted to be used again. To best allow this to happen, companies should already consider opportunities for circularity in the product development phase of their products.
the benefits of adopting the circular economy model have been immense: with significant reduction in carbon emissions and over US$1 trillion in material cost savings expected by 2025 worldwide.
Advancing a circular economy requires the entire collaborative ecosystem to look beyond current product strategies and processes to inspire better practices throughout product ecosystems, using innovation and communities to lead industries and make sustainability easier for customers and partners alike.
One of the leading reference sources on the web driving the change towards a circular economy is the Ellen Macarthur Foundation.
It has extensive references and case studies relating to the circular economy and how we can move toward one. The infographic below is from their website and helps outline what the circular economy fits together
The model distinguishes between technical and biological cycles. Consumption happens only in biological cycles, where food and biologically-based materials (such as cotton or wood) are designed to feed back into the system through processes like composting and anaerobic digestion. These cycles regenerate living systems, such as soil, which provide renewable resources for the economy. Technical cycles recover and restore products, components, and materials through strategies like reuse, repair, remanufacture or (in the last resort) recycling.
The details of the circular economy (Ellen Macarthur Foundation)
The details of the circular economy (Ellen Macarthur Foundation)
Re-thinking Progress: The Circular Economy
Brisbane based business Coreo - writes that:
A circular economy is an economic performance based model that relies on system wide innovation to reduce dependence on primary materials and energy, design out waste, extract the maximum value from materials and resources whilst in use and create new opportunities for both small and large businesses to generate economic, social and natural capital.
In Australia, the circular economy is estimated to contribute 26 billion to the economy by 2025.
Many business’s are already embracing the shift. This McKinsey slideshow talks through some of the opportunities available to business’s.
And there are some great example of it being applied. Take Patagaonia, which encourages the reuse and recycling of all its garments; or the Carpet company Interface which has been working to completely transform the traditionally linear waste flow of the carpet business.
And closer to home this terrific case study from the Sunshine Coast in Qld.
5 Directions for circular business model design
5 Directions for circular business model design
In their book Cradle to Cradle the authors, Braungart and McDonough outline a pyramid to be considered on a path to what they call Effectiveness which is closely linked to the circular economy. Each to the key areas of Equity, Ecology and Economy need to be considered and addressed in equal measure fo the implementation of a sustainable model that generates more than it takes.
The Eco-Effectiveness Pyramid (Braungart and McDonough )
The Eco-Effectiveness Pyramid (Braungart and McDonough )
They further outline a place for business’s to start on their journey to a circular economy system more aligned with natural flows:
Steps to Eco-Effectiveness (Braungart, M and McDonough,W, 2002)
1. Get “Free of” known Culprits
2. Follow informed personal Preference
  • Prefer ecological intelligence
  • Prefer Respect
  • Prefer delight, celebration and fun
3. Create a passive Positive List
  • The x list – Must get rid of
  • The gray list – doubtful
  • The p-list – preferred list – definitely ok
4. Activate the positive list
5. Reinvent
All of this all boils down to the simple reality that we all have an intuitive understanding of — everything is interconnected to everything else in some way. Nothing living is in isolation, and we are require other systems to survive—thus we are all in an interconnected, interdependent relationship with everything else.
We live of a closed ecosystem that is perfectly calibrated for success. Our bodies are small versions of this, and we benefit every second of the day from the services that this giant ecosystem provides us.
So when we are seeking to solve and evolve some of the more complex problems humanity faces, we must start first with a shift in mindset from the one dimension of a linear plane to a three-dimensional perspective of the interconnected and dynamic nature of systems at play in the world around us.
Short of us finding a sustainable (and desirable!) way of leaving planet earth, our journey to a circular economy, over the long term has to be inevitable. In many cases the business, and social cases to do so are already compelling. This is an exciting future to think about, one where our anthropocentric activities actual contribute to improve the function of this planet we live on.
Great References
Let me know what you think? I’d love your feedback. If you haven’t already then sign up for a weekly dose just like this.
Links that made me think....
As Scott Morrison faces COP26, here's how Australia can solve its climate change mess - ABC News
“Margin” as Part of Your Decision-Making Process — The Focus Course
Why you should limit work in progress and stop multitasking
Why The Right Audience Is Always Right
Teaching Smart People how to learn
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