Circularity as an approach to consumption is rooted in observation of the functionality of the Earth’s ecosystem. The underling principal of a circular approach is zero waste. In nature, the by-product of a process is food for an animal, microorganism, or other process. In today’s modern era of scarce resources and the unprecedented wastefulness, applying a circular approach to product design and lifestyle is gaining traction.
William McDonough and Michael Braungart created the first-of-its-kind certification called cradle-to-cradle, which proposed a product design approach that strives for zero waste, efficient use of resources, and planetary health. Some small businesses offer bottle returns for refills, adopting a circular business model to minimize waste. Consumers can incorporate circularity into daily routines to create less waste and foster a lifestyle of environmental stewardship.
Circularity is built into the functionality of our planet because it’s a closed system, meaning everything we rely on, from air to clothing, is created within the planetary system. Nothing enters or leaves the Earth system, except for an occasional meteorite. We rely on planetary processes to decompose our garbage, returning it to the Earth. According to a recent New York Times article, Americans make up just 4% of the world’s population yet produce 12% of its total waste. Nashville Public Works has stated that within the next 3-5 years, middle TN’s landfills will be at capacity, forcing municipalities to look for alternative solutions for waste disposal or create new landfills. At this point in time, the Earth is overwhelmed by the sheer amount of waste humanity is creating. This is evident in the garbage patch of the Pacific Ocean and the shortage of landfill space. Additionally, we tend to throw everything in the landfill instead of recovering material that can be reused or which could be toxic. This results in toxic runoff that pollutes the soil and water and carbon emissions released into the atmosphere. Humanity can mitigate these harmful effects by rethinking it altogether. Safeguarding a healthy planet requires a new approach to trash – minimization and treating waste as a valuable resource.
Circular living takes a holistic approach to things we buy and use with a goal to create less waste. We each have to take responsibility for what we use and what happens to it when we’re finished. How can we buy less and where can we choose materials that Earth’s natural processes can decompose without harming the environment.
Here are some ideas to incorporate circular living into your everyday life:
- Compost food waste: Minimizing food waste is one of the top solutions to climate change. Composting allows Earth’s natural functions to break food waste down into nutrient-rich soil that can be used to fortify soil health and grow healthy good.
- Understand what your clothes are made of: Most of the clothing on the market is made with plastic-derived material. You can reduce the amount of clothing you send to the landfill by donating and shopping from consignment or vintage shops. When buying new clothing, choose natural materials that can be easily recycled or composted, like 100% cotton, hemp, and wool.
- Choose reusable: Pay attention to what you throw away to discover where you can reduce waste by adopting reusable alternatives. Bring your own coffee mug, replace Ziploc bags with Stasher bags or beeswax wraps, avoid product packaging, choose reusable feminine hygiene products, and compostable cleaning sponges are some examples.
- Avoid single-use plastics: There are plenty of ways to achieve this. Bring your bags to the grocery store, choose fruits and vegetables not packaged in plastic, and check out your local refill shop.
- Please don’t rely on recycling: Our collective goal should be to reduce waste in totality. Limitations at recycling centers mean a lot of recyclable material is ending up in landfills, as is the case in Nashville. The challenge is to reduce what goes into the bin and be sure to understand what can be recycled in your town.
- Reimagine: Before throwing things away, find out if they can be fixed, mended, or repurposed to give items a second, or third life.