Creating a circular economy means rethinking consumerism in order to save earth.
As you browse through Ocean Junkies’ website, you will see reference to recycling, upcycling, and a circular economy. In one Ocean Junkies story, I shared the great work Olive Wilde is doing with her Conscious Commerce movement and the collaboration with the online thrift giant, ThredUp.
I wrote a recent blog post about our recycling crisis stemming from the fact that China will no longer buy our recycling. Then there is the disturbing fact that 91% of used plastic is not even being recycled.
The Ocean Junkies eco-shop sells only plastic-free products with an exception given to products that are upcycled from plastic bottles. Upcycling plays an important role in what is becoming a vital concept in our society: circular economy.
What Is A Circular Economy?
A circular economy is changing human mindset to design products and materials made to be sustainable and reusable with an end goal to design out waste and pollution. The idea is by keeping products and materials in use we can begin regenerating natural systems.
Did you know that every second the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned? The current trend in human consumerism it to make products in factories, which we use, and when we no longer want them, we throw them away. Take-make-waste. This is a linear economy.
Eliminate Pollution Before It Begins
If we can change the entire linear economy system we have in place and replace it with a system where all made items can be reused or composted, then we will have a circular economy.
We need to design products and their components so they remain in use, can be repaired, or remanufactured so they last forever.
How Do We Change Our Design Habits To Become Sustainable?
A good example of changing our design habits to create a sustainable planet and circular economy has come to us in the form of a mushroom. Did you know the root of a mushroom can be transformed into a product that mimics plastic?
Ecovative is a company that produces fully compostable packaging as an alternative to synthetic materials. This packaging is made of mycelium – the ‘roots’ of mushrooms – grown in and around agricultural by-products with low economic value, acting as a glue that can take any shape needed. At the end of use, the packaging can be composted at home.
Using compostable mushroom packaging instead of single use plastic packaging would eliminate the 8 millions tonnes of plastic that enters our oceans every year, and then stays there for 500 years.
Circular economy & fashion
The average American throws away about 80 pounds of clothing every year. Clothing consumption has risen sharply between 2001 and 2009 in large part because of “fast fashion” or “cheap fashion” from retailers like H&M and Forever 21.
I like to call it Trendgate: trendy inexpensive clothing that lasts only a season and is then discarded.
tons of used textile waste is generated each year in the United States
Tons of the 16 million produced were recycled
tons were combusted for energy recovery
Used clothing an average American throws away each year
Fashion Designer Anya Hindmarch’s Circular Economy
Instead of doing a big launch for London Fashion Week, fashion designer Anya Hindmarch closed all five of her London shops and filled them with more than 90,000 plastic bottles to make a big statement against plastic pollution.
Anya Hindmarch wants everyone to know that her mission has changed from awareness to circularity. Her previous campaign was “I am Not a Plastic Bag” and is now “I am a Plastic Bag” in her shift toward education about circular economy.
Each of her bags in the “I Am A Plastic Bag” collection are made from plastic bottles coated with recycled windscreens that provide an innovative cotton canvas-feel.
And each piece is designed to never be thrown away.
How can we be a part of the circular economy?
I’m not going to tell you what to do with your life or what to buy, but I’m going to gently suggest that you stop buying so many clothes and stop throwing them in the garbage. Didn’t your mom ever tell you that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure?
If you don’t want your clothes anymore, recycle them. Give them away to women’s shelters, veteran’s charities, Goodwill, your neighbor. Just please don’t throw your clothes away.
Try something new that will save you money: shop at thrift stores like ThredUp and Depop who carry all those amazing trendy clothes you like at half the cost, and you will be contributing to a circular economy. Win-win!
Purchase upcycled clothes that are made from plastic bottles – if the plastic is already produced and used, it should be reused rather than landing in landfills or the oceans.
Have a clothing swapping party! You know how you just can’t get your kid to eat their broccoli but then they go to a friend’s house and try the broccoli and now they love broccoli? The same is true for clothes. Just because you are tired of seeing that same old rag in your closet for the third consecutive year doesn’t mean your friend won’t love it.
Let’s start thinking outside of the box. Once we get in the habit of consuming and living in a more sustainably circular way, we won’t have to think so hard about it.
The World Economic Forum’s Community of Young Global Leaders, in collaboration with Accenture Strategy awarded Patagonia with the Accenture Strategy Award for Circular Economy Multinational at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters. This award recognizes the notable contributions Patagonia has made to the circular economy, driving innovation and growth, while reducing dependence on scarce natural resources.
“We are honored to receive this meaningful, important recognition. While Patagonia is proud to accept this award, we have only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible with a circular economy model. There is still so much work to be done to change global consumption habits and encourage reuse and repair.”