Wherever you are in the world, take a look around you. Everything you can see is made up of some kind of Resource. It may be a natural or Biological Resource, such as your lunch, your cotton t-shirt or a terracotta pot on your shelf. It may be a man-made or Technical Resource, such as the trainers on your feet, the dashboard of your car, or the plastic cover on your phone (and the phone itself). But whatever system your things fit within, they are all made up of Resources – the building blocks of our products, houses, cars and clothing. We currently create, make, use and discard our things in a linear way – but in a circular economy, our Resources would not get to ‘end-of-life’ and disappear into landfills or incinerators. They would go right back to the beginning and be used to make more things.
And why is this so critical now? We are using up a lot of the Resources we took for granted – and many are reaching critical levels. Many Resources are finite…
From the rare earths elements that are extracted annually to create components in our smartphones to the plastic that we deem so throwaway and single use, we are reliant on the Earth to produce everything for us. Did you know that plastic is derived from fossil fuels and rare earths? Well the name almost says it all. We are digging away at the very body of our planet and our finite resources are disappearing before our eyes. We can tell the same story with our topsoil eroding away due to intensive industrial agriculture and deforestation. Some believe we have fewer than 60 harvests left), and that by 2050, 40% of us will be living in areas of ‘severe water stress’.
Some brands and companies are already taking their use of Resources seriously and integrating practices like Extended Producer Responsibility so they get items back at ‘end-of-life’ and can Reuse the materials. Or maybe even leasing them, or Renting them to also ensure future material security. If you don’t sell it off, you can get it back.
But what can we all do to think about Resources differently? Surely this is all so big, so scary and so out of our control? Maybe not…
So, how can we rethink Resources?
- Reduce waste. This is the simplest action we can all take. Eat what you buy. Keep things for longer. Repair things. Reuse things. Rent things. If we all work more in line with a circular economy, this happens naturally.
- value those Resources more – we don’t think about the water coming out of our taps until it is knocked out by a storm, or a drought. Think about everything you use and touch – what it is made from, where it comes from and how you can save it.
- see a brand, company or business being wasteful and not considering just how valuable our Resources are? Challenge them. Ask them what they are doing to ensure a future Resource security for us all.