5 Reasons to adapt to a Circular Economy
Shifting into a Circular Economy has been in talks for many years, in order to address the concerning environmental and climate issues that are occurring on Earth. Every year more than 100 billion tons of resources enter the economy- including metals, fossil fuels, minerals and all organic materials. However, out of those 100 billion tons, only 8.6% of resources gets recycled and reused once again. In addition, over the past few years the need for resources in all areas of life has increased immensely; tripled since 1970 to be exact. If the world continues to use its resources the way it is currently, we’d require 1.5 Earths to sustain our needs. For this reason, it is more important than ever to shift from a linear economy model to a circular economy model.
A circular economy is not only about fixing environmental wrongs, but also it is about creating big opportunities and positive impacts throughout industries, sectors and all lives. A number of governments, businesses and society organizations are coming together to drive change through the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy, also known as PACE. Experts have come together to help develop the Circular Economy Action Agenda, which is a set of publications that analyze the potential impact and call for action across five key sectors: plastics, electronics, food, textiles and machinery infrastructure. Through this agenda, five major opportunities have emerged that associate with the shift towards a circular economy.
1.Reduce the amount of emissions
Out of the global greenhouse gas emissions, 45% come from food production, product use and manufacturing. Implementing a circular economy world-wide, it can reduce the use of resources and cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 39%. In addition, it can play a crucial role in averting the dangerous impacts that climate change can have on our Earth.
2. Make a better use of the limited resources.
Year after year, massive quantities of fossil fuels are used to produce clothes from synthetic fibers. Overall, the textile production, which includes cotton farming, uses about 100 billion cubic meters of water each year. This means about 4% of global freshwater gets withdrawn every year. Simultaneously, people throw away clothing that is in good condition. By implementing circularity in the textile industry, the overall total amount of land, fossil fuels, and water used to produce new clothes would be reduced immensely. This means that changing consumption patterns is vital to successfully turn the textile industry into a circular economy. The reason being, that consumers will need to reduce the number of new purchases they make and be mindful of keeping their clothes in use for a longer period of time. Lastly, ensuring that textiles that are at the end of their life are being collected and recycled or repurposed properly.
3. Create additional and better-quality jobs
Over the past few years, the number of jobs has been reduced due to the immense technology boom. However, transitioning to a circular economy can create an increase of 6 million new jobs in the next 10 years. Workers will be needed in industries like recycling, repair and rental services, or in new industries that begin to make innovative use of secondary materials. While the creation of new jobs is important, providing formal work and improving overall working conditions is just as necessary and important for our society.
4. Increase economies
A circular economy can offer a $4.5 trillion economic opportunity by reducing waste, creating employment and stimulating innovation. Business models with circularity at its centre, focus on reuse, repair, remanufacturing and sharing models that offer innovation opportunities. Many of the economic opportunities and benefits of a circular economy are long term, indirect and require a significant investment. Which is why having a long-term view is so important, and so are the short-term incentives in order to initiate the change.
5. Protect human health and biodiversity
Implementing a circular economy will help protect human health and biodiversity in many different ways, including making a better use of natural resources and moderating the climate crisis. More than 9 million people die every year, due to water, soil or air pollution. This is why designing products that are meant to be kept in use for a longer period of time will reduce the amount of waste produced. In addition, creating a proper collection and processing systems ensures that workers and the environment are protected from these dangerous materials.
Goodwill’s Online Store
Thrift stores around the world have been extremely affected by the lockdowns and reopening restrictions, since many countries do not consider them to be an essential service. That being said, thrift stores are the main source of income for many non-profit organizations, that fund many of their community outreach programs.
Goodwill Industries in the US has an online platform, where their customers are able to find unique pieces online to purchase and get them delivered. Their online platform was created in 1999, by a Goodwill executive in California, George Kessinger. He noticed that in order to be relevant and compete, he had to adapt and created his own website and started listing some of his stores’ best donations online. This was extremely beneficial to them throughout the global pandemic. Since 1999, they have done over $1 billion in online sales by pulling specific donations from hundreds of stores nationwide to list on their website.
Throughout the pandemic, Goodwill Industries have been actively selecting specific donations to auction off on their online platform. “What we put on shopgoodwill sells and usually sells at a higher value than if we put it in the store,” says Toni Giffin, CEO of Goodwill- San Diego County. Out of all the items placed on the online platform, over 97% successfully sell on the platform.
Although the site is not largely known, it currently attracts about 21 million unique visitors a week; and sold 4.8 million items nationwide in 2020. It is a great way to attract the younger consumers, whom are the leading drivers for the thrive of the second-hand industry. The average selling price on the website is $35; however, the most expensive item ever sold was a painting by Frank Weston Benson at $165,000. Overall, Goodwill is hoping to set itself apart from its competitors by emphasizing its mission of using its earnings to fund job training and career services for people with disabilities, lack of work experience and other challenges to secure quality employment.
Benefits of buying Sustainable Fashion
Fast Fashion has created a surge in new clothing, trends, styles and overall consumption. They created an environment where things change at such a fast pace, that consumers feel the need to continue shopping throughout the whole year in order to keep up with all the new trends and styles. In order to keep up with the production of these garments, these companies create quantity versus quality, which reduces the number of times a piece of clothing can be used. Even though this model creates economies of scales and might be beneficial for the consumers’ wallets, it is definitely detrimental to our planet and prevent environmental friendly models to spread out.
The textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world. From the production of cotton, to textile manufacturing all the way to the washing of clothing, it uses an immense amount of water supply. In fact, it takes about 2,700 liters of water to make just one t-shirt, which is enough water for one person to drink for 900 days. Also, one load of washing uses 40 gallons of water and five times more energy to dry it. In the US alone, there is 22 billion new articles of clothing imported yearly. Unfortunately, 84% of clothing ends up in landfills or incinerators that produces carbon dioxide, ammonia, methane and sulfides gases.
It is clear that the Fast Fashion industry needs to make a change for the sake of the globe. However, in order to accelerate this change, the consumers have to shift their consumption habits and build trends that have a significant impact in corporate sales and profit margins. Therefore, it is important to support brands that invest on reducing drastically their environmental footprint and that implement circular economy models at high scale. All in all, as consumers we have the power to bring change to these corporations, by making mindful purchases and rewarding companies that do good to our environment and our people.