In the sustainability space there is a lot of talk about a “circular economy” and “circularity”. But what does it all mean? I feel like the topic can get overly complicated so I’ve done my best to simplify the big question of “what is a circular economy?”
What is a circular economy?
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Before we answer the big question, we need to take a look at our current economy: a linear economy.
A linear economy follows a “take-make-use-dispose” model.
It takes raw materials from the earth, makes products, we use (consume) the products, then dispose of them. This current model designs things that are not meant to last, single-use items, poorly made items that are bound for the landfill. Perhaps, it’s cheaper this way but not when it comes to our planet’s health and resources.
A recycling economy is something that was thought to be the solution. It follows the “take-make-use-reuse-dispose” model. But recycling actually has many flaws as most thing made to be recycled don’t actually end up being recycled. Most thing also have an expiration date as to how many times an item can be recycled. This isn’t a great model because ultimately things still end up in the landfill, though delayed for a bit.
Which brings us to a circular economy. It follows and infinite model of “take-make-use-reuse-reuse-reuse” etc. The model usually doesn’t start with raw materials and designs products in a way that they can be used for a very long time and eventually made into something new.
Viewing items this way takes an adjustment. When things like plastic was invented it was made out of convenience. And we’ve lived in a convenient, “fast” world ever since. See fast fashion and fast food. We like things to be convenient and cheap. And often times that means poorly made items that will break and be thrown out and items designed quickly to be at our disposal faster.
It’s become more convenient to buy single use plates and cutlery than to wash and reuse. It’s become more convenient to buy an item of clothing, wear it once and get rid of it.
This way of living and making things has proven to be unsustainable in every sense of the word. Not only is it unsustainable in the fact that we’re creating excess waste but also in that we are depleting natural resources to create things meant to be thrown away.
A linear economy can’t go on and a recycling economy only delays the inevitable. We need to focus on and move towards a circular economy. And you can practice circularity in your every day life! Here are a few ways you can do so:
- Visit a refill store if you have access (or shop one online that allows you to return your container!)
- Mend your clothes or upcycle them rather than throwing them around
- Reusing everything, even things meant to be “single-use”
Creating a circular economy may seem complex but it doesn’t have to be. And it’s essential to sustainability. But when you really simplify it, circularity is all about keeping things in motion, out of the landfill and using as few raw resources as possible.
Here are a few brands that I love and that have circularity at the core of their business model:
- Pela (Save 20% with code: PELACAITY) Pela is a phone case and phone accessory company that makes their products out of plants! So they’re already using existing materials PLUS their line is completely compostable meaning when you’ve gotten all the use you can out of it, it will return to the earth and help the planet.
- Wolven (Salve 20% with code: ALITTLEROSEDUST) Wolven makes swimwear and activewear exclusively from recycled plastic. They also have a pre-loved program where you can send and purchase gently used Wolven pieces in an effort to keep them out of the landfill.
- Girlfriend Collective – Activewear, underwear, socks and more made from recycled plastic and packaged in recycled materials!
- Plaine Products – Plaine products offer personal care products like shampoo, face wash, toner, etc. in aluminum bottles that can either be recycled, upcycled or sent back to be refilled!
- Knickey – Knickey makes organic cotton bras, undies and basics that are to die for. But the best part is their recycling program! Not only can you send back used Knickey underwear but also your other worn underwear that needs to be recycled! How cool?
I hope this post helps give you a leg up when it comes to creating a circular economy! Please don’t forget to share this post and follow me on Instagram for daily sustainable living content.