Our global economy today has evolved in such a way that we see extreme forms of production. For instance, driving through parts of the German countryside, monoculture and greenhouses have replaced traditional landscapes. In order to remain competitive, companies have developed extreme forms of Fordism where people, mostly outside of Europe, are reduced to doing one task over long periods of time and for very little pay. This has created a pattern where high paid labor and high consumption are concentrated in the global north, whereas low paid manual labor and lower consumption are concentrated in the global south. Consider these facts from the FAO : “Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes)”.
But how do these goods reach their destinations? The answer is found in extreme logistic practices which are fossil fuel intensive - with all its undesirable side effects including CO2 emissions. Why do we produce so much? For example a third of all food produced in the world is wasted, and one piece of clothing is worn seven times before ending up in the garbage.
But let’s think about this for a minute. A direct consequence of this wasteful lifestyle is that a global urban resident produces 1,2 kg of waste every day. An article in the Guardian even stated that the major industries in the world would be producing massive net losses if environmental externalities were to be considered.
How can we change this?
The current take-make-dispose model - also known as the linear economic model - doesn’t work for business, doesn’t work for the environment nor does it work for people. We feel the need for a paradigm shift where businesses become vehicles for positive social and environmental impact.
This is where we believe the circular economy model offers an inspiring framework. As the Ellen MacArthur Foundation put it so well, “beyond the current take, make and dispose extractive industrial model, the circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design”.
So what do we mean by a circular economy?
The circular economy model is inspired by nature’s own ecosystem, resilience and longevity. Waste does not exist in nature. A circular economy ensures an economic system where no materials are wasted. Instead, they are managed in closed loops. Products are designed and built so that after consumption they can be reused, refurbished or repurposed.
This means rethinking our products, services and business models. On a material level it means working with regenerative materials. Leftovers and so-called “waste” become the input for the next production cycle until we reach our zero waste goal. At the CRCLR House we are testing , are iterating and are incubating those circular business models today! Imagine children in 2050 reading about waste in their history books and asking their teacher “what does this word waste mean?”.
In order to reach this goal, we need every member of society to support this change. This can only happen if people feel a deeper responsibility for social and ecological wellbeing. A shift in mindset is the necessary step towards a circular future.
The circular economy model also offers a framework for collaboration. It empowers us to co-create, co-shape, co-design and co-own. We need to act fast and time is not on our side. Solutions to our current problems need to be systemic and be adaptable locally. Open source is the right tool to spread Circular Economy practices fast.
We wish to inspire local and global communities to join this process and create real change, one that will have real positive impact. As Jeremy Rifkin puts it so well “this could be a renaissance. We may be on the cusp of a future which could provide a tremendous leap forward for humanity.”