Circular economy strategies aren’t just for big corporations
By: Ainsley Lawrence
There are studies that say the world will run out of oil within 55 years. All the while, aquatic creatures are suffering at the hands of plastic pollution every day. On top of that, our collective contribution to the greenhouse effect is sending us underwater as sea levels rise at unprecedented rates.
Our entire society is currently built on the use of disposable resources. If the world is suffering because of our practices, then we need to change our ways of doing things. This is where the concept of a circular economy comes into play — the practice of using renewable resources in the means of production and reducing waste as much as possible. Of course, solar energy is a great example of renewable energy.
The New Jersey Institute of Technology published an article about recent moves to shift into a circular economy by big companies. They noted an impressive example from one of the United States’ most beloved children’s entertainment enterprises: In Florida, Walt Disney World takes discarded food from its many restaurants and converts it into renewable biogas. This, they state, “turns food waste into yet another source of energy” and “keeps garbage out of landfills” by reclaiming it for another purpose. It also negates the negative effects of rotting food which would have contributed to greenhouse gas emissions.
While Mickey and the gang have more financial resources for big projects like this than most businesses, their example should not fall on deaf ears. Here are ways entrepreneurs can begin to contribute to a circular economy.
Accumulating Reusable Means of Production
Truly taking part in a circular economy means utilizing renewable materials in your means of production. While introducing new methods and machinery can slow operations down temporarily, there is an objective bright side to it: Being able to reuse operation materials will reduce the cost to acquire more and increase overall profit and revenue. Furthermore, you’ll be eligible for tax credits for implementing certain green improvements.
Some practical examples of this include:
- LED lighting and solar thermostats.
- If you use gasoline in your equipment, see if there’s a way to substitute that for more sustainable alternatives, such as battery-powered equipment.
- If your office spaces includes coffee bars, meal areas, and office supplies, consider encouraging employees to bring cups and dishes from home and providing them with supplies that are reusable, or at least biodegradable.
Sustainable approaches like these are growing in popularity. The World Economic Forum noted that major societies could begin adopting reusable materials on a larger scale. But there is still a major imbalance when it comes to unsustainable practices.
Instead of maintaining the status quo, we need to find new ways to end (and, when possible, reverse) the damage done by mankind. A new economic model is necessary to achieve this. A circular economy is the new lifestream injection our society needs.
A circular economy requires a reduction of waste — not just an emphasis on renewable resources. Your workplace should have recycling bins, and management should actively encourage people to use them. However, reducing waste may be more important than simply urging employees to recycle.
To reduce waste, we have to eliminate old practices. Take the paperless office — a trend popping up across the Western world. Becoming a paperless office isn’t very difficult in modern times, as most documents can be delivered and stored electronically. Paperless offices could be created in all kinds of industries; it’s just a matter of breaking the habit. Less paper means less waste.
And thus we stumble upon another benefit to the circular economy: its cost-effectiveness. Moving back to the paper example, can you imagine just how much money could be saved by companies if they just cut out paper? Similarly, how much could power costs be reduced by using energy-efficient lights or appliances? The concept may sound simple, but the benefits are major.
Capitalizing on Efficiency
Local authorities around the world have argued that though a shift toward a circular economy is necessary, the shift must be realistic. This is fair but has sometimes been used as a means of holding off on making sustainable changes for fear they are too time-consuming or inconvenient. But there are many new business operations models that are sustainable and more efficient, and many don’t require a large investment.
A trending approach to improving efficiency is big data analytics, which has eliminated inefficiencies and errors within supply chains. With fewer setbacks you can save on gas, electricity, and materials with big data’s help.
This would be the same for a circular economy as a whole, which focuses efforts on recycling what they can of raw materials and avoiding waste wherever possible. Even if someone doesn’t care about sustainable practices, they can’t deny the productive benefits a circular economy would bring them.
A circular economy doesn’t really have a downfall. Not only is it necessary for the prolonged stability of our planet, it works in favor of the companies and countries that participate. It is in those parties’ hands, though. They will have to start finding ways to reduce waste and embrace renewable resources in order to get the circular economy in motion. The sooner they do, the better.