One of the biggest challenges facing the world today is the sheer scale of human consumption. Driven by a combination of materialism, capitalism, and globalization, people across the world are demanding more of a better quality than ever before. While it is a basic human right to have access to use commodities that are required or even enjoyed, careless consumption is pushing our world to the brink of its limits. Is there any reprieve for the Earth?
The traditional economic model is the one we are all too familiar with in our life – goods are made, we buy them and use them, and then they are disposed off. We only deal with products during the use phase, and seldom pay attention to, or are even aware of, the massive use of resources that happens in the production phase that includes everything from water to metals, or the disposal that continues to choke our lands and seas.
Circular economy seeks to prevent resource wastage, disposal wastage, and carbon emissions by engaging in a variety of processes such as maintenance, long-lasting designs, refurbishing, up-cycling, etc. Thus, the aim of this model is to enable humans to develop better products that are more durable and last longer, while at the same time using fewer resources. All of this of course means, that consumption stops becoming the giant pain it is for the planet. Importantly, proponents of this model hold that circular economy can be established without compromising on the quality and living standards that consumers are used to, and without hurting the profitability of businesses.
All of this may seem like an extremely difficult thing to do, but a combination of innovation, funding, information-pooling and creativity has already begun to show effects.
Fashion stands majorly accused of the linear economic fashion, with absurd standards and the industry’s cutting competition to always be on trend majorly responsible for piles of textiles being thrown away or incinerated every year. In 2016, actress and activist Emma Watson brought into notice the efforts of the industry to turn away from its wasteful ways, wearing a Calvin Klein/ Eco-Age collaboration gown that was not only made of recycled plastic bottles, but also had detachable components, meaning that the dress could be worn over and over again. While such efforts continue to be too few and far in between, organizations such as the MacArthur Foundation, Patagonia and Stella McCartney have begun to take important steps towards creating a more circular model of fashion.
Another excellent example of growing circularity is renting. Considering fashion again, today there are a number of websites that enable individuals to rent clothes and accessories for special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, and corporate parties. Not only do such rentals mean a cheaper and more convenient outing for people (we all have faced the issue of having too much yet nothing to wear, but no money to buy more), it also enables businesses to gain more from a single item, thereby benefitting both sides more, while producing considerably less waste.
Of course, fashion is not the only place where such change is needed, every industry from coffee houses to construction needs to adopt and adapt to a circular model if the Earth’s condition is to get any better. As consumers, you can do you part by actively investing in such brands, and perhaps even giving feedbacks to the businesses you have stake in. As potential or current business holders, it may be in your best interest to look more into the concept, for the sake of both better profits, a better corporate image, and a better tomorrow.