Round and Round We Go: Circular Economies
We throw the word ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ around a lot, but that’s a bit esoteric as we discussed in the green washing post. What makes something sustainable? The ingredients help, provided they are made in a way that doesn’t require harmful practices to produce (pesticides, unethical labor, animal testing, the whole shebang). But if you just pull and pull for more of the same resources, demanding they produce without having a way to regenerate, the net good drops; this is our current economic model, the Take, Make, Waste model.
Take, Make, Waste starts with taking a finite resource, such as coal, making it into something new, like electricity, and wasting it. Yes, the electricity will be used, but the carbon released from burning the coal doesn’t get used for anything; it’s released into the atmosphere without a purpose. Similarly, you can take oil and make petroleum products such as plastic wrap, which will eventually be wasted without a way to re-use it or re-make it into something useful. Picture anything single use or disposable, anything with planned obsolescence. These products don’t have an afterlife planned for them beyond the garbage pile, locking the resources that made them into stasis. With this model, we eventually run out of a resource for good, until whatever we’ve used can break down enough on its own to be used again (and in the case of plastic, that isn’t within any of our lifetimes).
The antithesis to the Take, Make, Waste model then is the circular economy, one where resources are channeled back to the starting line (so to speak) so that resources are not depleted. Think of recycling, upcycling, or composting. Finding ways to re-use or re-make a thing so that it is useful again. The point is to make an ouroboros, where a resource is taken, made into a product, and that product is remade in its afterlife back into resources that can be used to make… more product. Or at the very least, can be made into something else.
The goal is to not waste, to have something at the end that is just as helpful as it was at the start.
For example, our beeswax wraps are made of a 100% organic hemp-cotton blend fabric, local Colorado beeswax, organic coconut and jojoba oil, and natural tree resin. When combined into a Khala Cloth™, the resulting wrap will last for over a year- and at the end of its life, the is made to be composted. Composting the wraps means fertilizer is made that can go into growing flowering plants for bees to pollinate, and their beeswax can be harvested to be used in a new wrap…. Etc. With this model, resources can be transformed and used again; we aren’t locking anything in an unusable stasis. This is what a circular economy focuses on, using the same resources over and over, channeling it into different forms.
While the goal is to prevent waste from happening at all, having a goal of getting all of the starting resources back again is lofty. There will be some waste along the way, but that doesn’t mean we ought to give up. Finding ways to use the waste (eKo ties anyone? Mechak ropes?) is still a component of ethical, mindful production, and can help get resources back into the circular flow. In our own facility, we re-filter our excess wax from the coating process so we can use it in future batches, and are constantly looking to improve the way we produce to be more circular.
Conforming to the Circular Economy means that we have to get creative, and find new, innovative ways to produce, and the earth sure would be better if more businesses complied too. That's not to say the individual can't help out though! Look for our an upcoming article where we will talk about how you can be more circular too!