Why is the circular economy important and how do we participate?
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
We are living in a linear economy where resources are taken from the ground to make products that we use. When those products are no longer needed or used, they are wasted.
Some people call this a throw-away culture, and we can do better.
Here’s what we’ll cover step-by-step:
Let’s close the loop and embrace the circular economy together.
🎯 Action step 1 of 4: READ — Let's start by looking at a few articles together.
The linear economy initially started when we invented the steam engine. In 1694, the steam engine made it possible to mass produce things for the first time in history. It's not a coincidence that since the 1700s, CO2 emissions have been steadily increasing because of human activities of mass production. CO2 levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years.
Now, introducing the circular economy! This is an economy where we stop making products that will become waste and, instead, design products and materials that can be reused again and again. Instead of consuming limited resources, circular economy products use renewable energy and materials. There are three important principles to this: 1) reduce waste and pollution, 2) reuse products and materials, and 3) help nature to regenerate.
Let's ground ourselves in five facts about the circular economy, which you’ll find on the MacArthur Foundation website.
You’ll learn that:
By changing the way we manage resources, make and use things, and dispose of waste, we can create a better economy that helps people, businesses, and the environment. This kind of economy can make more jobs, reduce waste and pollution, and protect the planet.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 1 of 4: READ.
🎯 Action step 2 of 4: LISTEN — we'll watch a short video or listen to a podcast to further expand on our topic.
Check out this short 20-minute movie about The Story of Stuff. This video's been around since 2009, and is still one of the BEST videos we’'ve seen about production and consumption. We highly recommend watching the video to understand how government and corporations worked together to create this system — it didn't happen on accident.
Here’s what you’ll learn about the linear economy:
They also have a fact sheet, so please check it out after the video if you wish!
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 2 of 4: LISTEN.
🎯 Action step 3 of 4: ACT — Now it's time to do something. Let's go!
When we incorporate circular practices in our daily lives, our choices can have a ripple effect in how we shift towards a circular and sustainable economy. You can start a plan for change with the following ideas:
1. Join your local Buy Nothing group.
The Buy Nothing Project is based on a hyperlocal gift economy. It's not a marketplace for selling or trading — it's a way of giving and receiving with abundance while meeting your neighbors (even digitally, for now). This group has been our #1 source of joy (and furniture) over the past month. Other options for secondhand buying/gifting include Freecycle, FB marketplace, and Craigslist.
2. Declutter your home and gift your things.
You can use the Marie Kondo method and watch her Netflix show, Tidying Up. Her method helps you identify what possessions spark joy in your life and what you can let go of. Post your things on Buy Nothing so they can continue to circulate!
3. Eliminate food waste by auditing and replanting.
Ends+Stems has a free food waste audit so you can see how much time, money, and food your household is throwing away. It's a fun way to get kids involved! To truly make this circular, compost or re-plant your food scraps.
4. Introduce the circular economy to your local city council member.
Find your representative here. Plug their contact info into this email template to find out how you can make a local impact.
5. Volunteer for BRINGiT to end single-use produce bags.
BRINGiT's founders have had wins phasing out plastic in major stores — join them to see how you can play your part by giving your time.
6. Check out your local tool library.
Many big cities have tool libraries where you can rent and give tools so you don't need to buy new ones. Find your local tool library and if you don't have one, here's a comprehensive guide on starting your own!
7. Ask your company how they plan on participating in the circular economy.
Feel free to reply with more info about your company/role and I can give you some ideas. For example, if you work in consulting, Big Oil, or fashion, you can make an enormous impact.
It’s time we shift away from the take, make, waste system. Annie Leonard from the The Story of Stuff said it best—You cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 3 of 4: ACT.
Before we go any further, it's time for you to pledge your commitment. It takes less than 30 seconds to pledge and we can bother you about it in a friendly way, so we can hold each other accountable. Pledge here!
🎯 Action step 4 of 4: REFLECT — what can you commit to? What fresh perspectives can we look at?
Consumption isn’t the only issue. Waste is a fundamental design flaw in our current linear system. The circular system reimagines and redesigns systems that create waste. You might have also seen some criticisms of the "ugly produce" model.
To learn more, we interviewed Rose Hartley, who worked as the Sustainability Manager at Imperfect Foods (now Head of Sustainability at Misfit Markets). They prevent “ugly produce” from going to waste - just because it looks strange, doesn't mean it should be thrown away! Check out the full article here.
Here are 5 things we learned about Imperfect Foods:
As you go forward, reflect on: What companies, habits, and practices can you include in your life to be more "circular"? You’ll be surprised at what you’ll discover.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 4 of 4: REFLECT.
Check out our membership community for more resources like free weekly events with social justice experts, sustainable product discounts, pre-written email templates, a social impact job board, and in-person hangouts with new friends. Thanks for taking action with Soapbox Project!
Get our free bite-sized climate action plans before you go!