Figure 1 Source: Unsplash (@julytheseventifirst)
Have you been thinking about how you can reduce waste? Wondering how you can minimise your impact on the earth? Feeling self-conscious about not doing enough? The good news is twofold; you’re not alone, and there are several tangible steps you can take to make a big difference.
We present to you, the circular economy. Also known as circular living, this concept sees raw resources being put back into the system so that all energy and materials stay in a closed loop. What’s the point of all this? Basically, the circular economy works to drastically reduce the waste of both energy and materials, as well as conserve our dwindling resources. And with Australia producing waste at double the rate of our population, this is more important than ever.
But how do we as individuals work towards something that is first and foremost a systemic issue that is much bigger than us? Here are our top tips for circular living.
Borrow before you buy
Borrowing, lending and leasing should be your three go-tos from now on. Researchers have found that often people buy something only for it to be used for a couple of hours in entirety. Instead, take advantage of the many services online to borrow something rather than buying it. Items you can consider borrowing rather than buying include specialised tools, camping/skiing equipment for non-regulars, and even larger investments - services like Car Next Door encourage people to borrow and lend their cars.
Figure 2 Source: Unsplash (emorr)
If you were ever looking for a way to be healthier, more economical and more environmentally friendly all at the same time, then this is it. Buying seasonal produce such as fruit and veg should be considered the foundations of responsible consumption. While you’re at it, if you opt for seasonal produce that is locally sourced, you’re not only supporting local farming in your area, you’re also reducing the impacts of lengthy transportation times, refrigeration and irradiation of produce.
Consume differently; purposefully
Figure 3 Source: Unsplash (@morningbrew)
To make a real impact from the top down, we need to change the demand in order for the supply to change, too. To encourage a circular economy, we should be actively seeking out and buying from businesses and brands who make a point of being ethical – both environmentally as well as socially.
Ensuring the products you buy aren’t inherently bad for the environment as well as ensuring they are made under fair work conditions is also hugely important.
Consuming purposefully is also crucial; under the lens of the circular lifestyle pillar of ‘reduce’, ensure you only buy things you really need, and opt for products that use less unnecessary packaging.
Reusing is not only a simple step towards circular living, it also has the possibility to help a lot of others, too. Reusing can include donating old clothes, electronic devices and appliances which otherwise create a lot of waste on the outset of design. In fact, 80% of environmental impact is determined at the design stage in the current linear economy. If we can continue reusing and donating, we will be actively taking steps towards designing out waste and pollution in our economy and getting closer to closing the loop.
Figure 4 Source: Unsplash (@merakist)
The focus of the circular economy is to keep products and materials in use, but it’s important to remember that it’s not just about things lasting forever – it’s also about getting materials back once they’ve been used so they don’t end up in landfill. Similarly, if we can think about how to improve the environment rather than just protect it, we open ourselves up to more impactful opportunities for change. For instance, by separating our food scraps from general waste, we regenerate our natural systems. By returning valuable nutrients to the soil, we can not only enhance our natural resources but also reduce landfill.
Another huge focus for recycling initiatives right now is the lifecycle of soft plastics. We know too much waste is being produced, and fortunately more and more commercial collection points are popping up so that these plastics can be collected and either repurposed or recycled. When national supermarket chain, Coles, introduced REDcycle to their stores in 2011, they diverted more than 715 million pieces of flexible plastic from landfill across Australia.