Sustainability is much in the news at the moment – it seems it is flavour of the month politically and with world leaders gathering in Davos, there is an anticipation of some momentum.
There’s been a lot of talk about a circular economy or holistic sustainability, and I hope this will drive thinking towards a closed loop economy where products and services are designed with their disposal in mind.
Old fashioned values and basic economics
This is nothing new. This is going back to old fashioned values and basic economics. In the last 40 years, our society has become wasteful and oblivious of the impact our activity is having on our environment and resources. We have become obsessed with anything new and shiny, regardless of how much damage has been done during its production and distribution.
Our economy is very much linear. We design and produce goods and services without much thought about what will happen at the end of life, or whether we are making the best use of the resources used. The Ellen McArthur Foundation estimates that globally we could save around $1trillion if we used our resources better and considered what could be done with them when the product reaches the end of its life. The report shows that a fully circular economy would reduce both global natural resource use by 28% and cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 72%.
We can resolve this issue
As a species, we are remarkably resourceful and innovative. If we can find a way to travel to the moon or split the atom, it’s definitely within our ability to find alternatives to plastic that don’t rely on oil and will degrade safely into our environment whilst providing practical applications that plastic offers. We are able to design products and services that don’t deplete our natural reserves or contribute to the degradation of our environment.
I feel very optimistic that we are at an important tipping point in our evolution, and future development will take into account the total cost of production – not just the raw materials used, but those wasted and the cost of disposing of the product at the end of life. This will help us determine whether the price of production and distribution is worth paying.