The circular economy is a financial, social, environmental, and place-based development that mimics Nature’s Cradle to Cradle reuse of what humans produce, consume, and decompose to reproduce again. The human population is growing, purchasing, and wasting three earths of energy and material production! In fact, humans have depleted one-third of the world’s resources in the last three decades. These resources include land, nonrenewable energy, biodiversity of nonhuman life necessary for our life on Earth, and more. The circular economy realizes that our planet and its resources are finite. And that humans, especially in the wealthier countries, must change their consumption to balance an economy that can provide for all human and nonhuman life across all biomes. In other words, each of us is responsible for what we use and what we discard. Moving from a linear economy to a circular economy requires closing cycles with the reuse of waste and resources and reducing the speed of material cycles to develop enduring, reusable, and durable products. Besides the environmental and economic benefits, a circular process aims to positively impact society, our choices, and our responsibilities to each other and the Earth. Sustainability connects our human prospect with the prospect of the Natural Environment and our health with Earth’s health.
Activity 1 – Shifting Resources
Our Earth is finite, but our human imagination is infinite. We all need to understand that our nonrenewable resources are being rapidly depleted. The nonrenewable resources we use- coal, oil, and natural gas are fossil fuels created over millions of years from dead plants and animals. Nuclear Energy is also considered nonrenewable due to the mining of uranium for its process, which is a fossil fuel. The end of coal is predicted in just over 100 years. It is time for the human race to innovate with other renewable and green energy sources. Using passive energy sources provided by Nature, like heat and light from the sun, ventilation from the movement of air, rainwater harvesting, and growing our food locally, can make a difference in energy use. List five ways that you can use less energy.
Activity 2 – Decreasing Consumption
Since World War II, the increase in consumer wealth has fueled the consumption of goods and products never before seen in such quantity in human existence. Wealthier countries like the United States, which has 5% of the world’s population, use thirty percent of the world’s energy. The production and distribution of goods are overwhelming the Earth’s landfills and oceans with objects of obsolescence that are toxic and not biodegradable. We must change the process and the system and stop purchasing from companies that produce these items. Instead, we should seek products invented to be part of a cradle-to-cradle process from design through production to use and reuse. We should consider those products that produce materials safe for the environment and human and nonhuman life on Earth. The products that promote cleaner air and water and safeguard our topsoil are critical to our sustainability and should be appreciated. Products and manufacturing that utilize green energies should become the norm. Look around and ask yourself, what could I do without, and what could I do with less of? Make a list of how you can contribute to a healthier human ecosystem.
Activity 3 – Changing Performance Expectations
The production of suitable needs to change from single-use and short life to reusability, recyclability, and repurposing. This means that toxic chemicals must be removed from manufacturing as they harm humans and the biodiversity of life. Many of us unknowingly slept on neurotoxic pillows and sheets, drank water that was polluted, and used medicines that caused side effects. People use pesticides; industrialized agriculture uses herbicides and insecticides that kill insects and animals. It is time we become aware that our health is the Earth’s health, and the Earth’s health is our health. We are all connected. Make a diagram of activities that are healthy for both humans and the biodiversity of life.
Activity 4 – From linear to circular economy
Draw a straight line. Now, draw a circle. Watch Annie Lenord’s The Story of Stuff to better visualize our current linear economy, which moves from material extraction to material production to distribution of goods to use and disposal. On your line, mark this process from natural resources to human-made resources. Be sure to draw a truck or plane between every process as materials are moved from where they originate to where they will be manufactured, constructed, used, and then thrown away and put into landfills. Now think about that process shifting from a straight line to a circle:
• Use materials more sustainably.
• Recover materials.
• Regenerate land from industrialized farming.
• Replant lost forests.
• Conserve wetlands.
• Expand grasslands, changing abuse of development and sprawl to more ingenious growth guidelines.
Make a Circular Economy Diagram and upload it to the Gallery.
- CELF Lifecycle & Food 3rd grade
- Envisions Eindhoven
- EPA Sustainable Materials Management
- EPA What is a Circular Economy
- Humans Changed the Face of the Earth, Now We Rethink Our Future
- The Circular Economy Ellen MacArthur Foundation
- THRED UP
- Video: A Circular Economy for Buildings: Arup
- Video: The Story of STUFF Annie Leonard