Who am I and why is Circularity so important?
Welcome to the second edition of Live Circular, a weekly look at how living by circular principles can make us better consumers, save us money, and save the planet.
This week I introduce myself, explain why the Circular Economy is so important to me, and what I hope to achieve with this newsletter.
I talk a lot about the Circular Economy, but I don’t often talk about why it excites me, or why I think it’s so important.
In my professional life, we talk of the concept in dry and academic terms and, consequently, I think we struggle to communicate its importance to the layman. That’s what this newsletter is all about; stripping away all the jargon to communicate the core concepts and why they are important to all of us.
There are some cool ideas in the circular economy, and it would be a shame if they stayed stuck inside the realms of academia and industry.
So why is the Circular Economy so important to me?
My revelation was about three years ago. Before then I hadn’t heard of the concept, and hadn’t thought about material use, beyond “It’s a good idea to recycle some things”.
Our planet has finite resources. By which I mean that we only have a limited amount of any type of material. Anything you can think of - water, gold, natural gas - has a limit. It might be a huge, hard to comprehend limit, but it exists. Even natural resources such as wood, cotton, and meat are limited depending on the quantities of other resources available to grow and sustain them (land, water, nutrients, etc.)
The problem is that capitalism has trained us all to act like nothing will ever run out. We have a “use it, chuck it away” mentality, that is entirely divorced from what is needed.
A circular economy seeks to address these problems by thinking about how we use these resources, not just after the fact by recycling some materials, but intentionally, and at every stage of the process. We need to think about the materials we use to make new products, how we prolong the lives of those products, and what we do with them when they come to the end of their lives.
The revelation I mentioned earlier was this: a circular economy is inevitable. If we continue using resources the way we do, we will eventually start to run out. Before you know it we’re in Mad Max, fighting each other for the last usable water, gold, or natural gas.
We have to start thinking and acting more responsibly towards materials. We owe it to our children and grandchildren, to the natural world, and to the exploited and damaged communities around the world.
The second revelation follows quickly on the heels of the first: if a circular economy is inevitable, we might as well get on board with it now, right?
If change is coming, isn’t it better to be prepared for it? Isn’t it better to be leading the change than fighting it?
Besides inevitability, there are some cool ideas. We can turn waste into new products, design items that can be easily repaired and which don’t have to be replaced after a year, we can rent items we would normally buy but hardly use.
And the great thing is, whilst business is coming around to this idea there are many ways we can start to live by circular principles. This is important because it communicates to businesses and the government that we are willing to change and that the cause is important to us. It also reacquaints us with some pretty old fashioned concepts: using and looking after something, repairing, and “making do”.
And who am I?
I’m an engineer and project manager, who specialises in sustainability in the maritime sector. As I mentioned above, I first came across the circular economy three years ago, during my part-time studies. I found the concept so transformative that both of my group projects were themed around it, and I was later inspired to take on the role of club lead for the Exeter Circular Economy Club.
I’m new to all of this and constantly learning, but I do believe that the Circular Economy is, and will be, important to all of us. I also think that the principles of a Circular Economy - in short, responsible production and ownership - can be used as a template to help us all live our lives better. I think there’s a lot of potential here, and something for all of us to learn about ourselves and our relationships with things.
I hope you join me on this journey, and I look forward to getting to know all of you as we go.
One final thing, I’m a boyfriend, father and dog-father. I do all of this for them, my partner, my baby girl and my dog. If my reach can extend any further than that, then great; if not, then I’ll still be happy.
Before April ended we got the mower out and cut part of our lawn to create a space where our daughter could play. The rest we've left as a wild garden, free to grow and support nature. So far the approach is paying off; we’ve already seen a pair of hedgehogs courting and cavorting.
On the allotment
That mow was the first (and only) cut of the year, so we had a lot of grass clippings. These have been taken to the allotment, mixed with an equal amount of brown materials, and added to our compost bins. I’m still trying to get my head around how to use these four bins to their fullest potential, but I have at least been able to balance out the overly damp compost that was left in the middle two bins. More on my plan for these bins in a later issue, I think.
An article in The Sun newspaper (UK), about reusable toilet wipes, or “family cloths”. I expected this would be a bit silly - “isn’t this woman crazy” - but it was quite balanced and informative. To those parents who use cloth nappies, this is I guess a natural progression. It’s encouraging to see this kind of coverage in The Sun. Biggest takeaway for me: bidets are essential. (I reuse loo roll – I just bung a pile of rags by the toilet which the whole family share, I only wash them once a week)
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has launched a set of teaching resources for Tes, aimed at engaging children on the circular economy. The resources are free and seem like they’ll be a great way to introduce anyone to the concepts of circularity. I’ll take a more detailed look at the resources and report back in a future issue (Ellen MacArthur Foundation at Tes)
Coming next week
Remember that all month is No Mow May. Keep your hands off the lawnmower and let those wildflowers bloom! (support nature)
Tomorrow, Saturday, 14 May is World Fairtrade Day (support responsible
see also Fairtrade Fortnight in February
Monday, 16 to Friday, 20 May: Walk to School Week in the UK
Friday, 20 May:
Bike to Work Day in the US
see also Cycle to Work Day in October
Endangered Species Day (international, third Friday in May)
Sunday, 22 May: International Day for Biological Diversity
For a full listing of all sustainability-related holidays, events and observances, check out the sustainability calendar.
The six circular principles are:
Use for longer
Keep it local
Support responsible production
Support your community
Thank you for reading. I look forward to sharing this journey with you. Please consider subscribing, and if you want to check out more of my writing, visit Medium.
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