With the quickly deteriorating state of our environment, there has been increased focus on environmentally friendly consumption and business practices. Not only is it popular to be environmentally conscious, it is good for your bottom line as well.
But tossing plastic into a recycle bin and wearing ethically made organic cotton t-shirts is not enough. You cannot build a ‘green’ business on a foundation of un-coordinated and inconsistent acts of environmental consciousness.
That’s where sustainable business models such as the circular economy comes in. This economic model seeks to replace virgin materials with existing materials in order to eliminate waste.
As opposed to today’s ‘take, make, and dispose’ linear economy where products are thrown away because they cannot be repaired or recycled, the circular economy aims to reintegrate end-of-life products and materials back into the economy while maintaining their highest possible value (products that have reached the end of their useful life will be recycled and re-purposed into a product that offers similar if not higher value.)
Not only does this save manufacturer’s money due to reduced energy and material costs, it allows for competitive pricing in a market where commodities cost an arm and a leg.
While many people large businesses (TATA Motors, Vodafone, BMW) have begun to implement the circular economy into their operations, thereby reducing waste resulting from their products and services, I’d like to take a look at how small businesses can implement the circular economy using waste from a third-party.
The Eden YARD
A few Saturday’s ago, I visited the EDEN YARD crafts market which is held every month in Nairobi. There were different vendors that embodied the spirit of social enterprise, trade practices, and environmentally friendly products, such as the swap shop which promotes trade of clothes, accessories, shoes, and other items, and a shop that sold bags which were made using empty milk packets and coffee packages.
It was amazing to see the different ways business owners took the principles of social enterprise and environmental consciousness into consideration when making and/or trading their products.
House of David
In all of this, one vendor stood out to me. A business that combined creativity and environmentally friendly practices to create beautiful products that should adorn your house, office, or event space.
The business I’m referring to is House of David- an excellent example of the circular economy.
House of David is a startup that creates artistic pieces from recycled wine and beer bottles.
They take used bottles slated for the bin, and then transforms them into unique creations that act as the focal point of your room, using paint, beading, and other accessories.
Not only do they promote the circular economy by preventing empty bottles from going to waste (not everyone recycles), they create personalized designs on unopened bottles. In this way, they ensure that once the contents have been drunk, you will keep and reuse the bottle.
Check out their Instagram page to see more of their amazing designs.
Their business model does not require virgin glass, and this allows them to pass their cost savings to their customers in the form of affordable pricing.
The circular economy is not just good for the environment, it is crucial to the strength of our markets.
The Value of Waste
Waste streams have been ignored for far too long. Sadly, the entire industry is seen as dirty and unattractive, when in reality it is a pot of gold.
An overwhelming majority of the products we use will eventually end up in a dump site, when they can be recycled and/or re-purposed to satisfy the ever growing demand for commodities.
And I’m not just referring to plastic and glass bottles which are commonly recycled. I’m talking about:
– Small garment producers taking garment waste from large factories and creating affordable clothing
– Farmers using food waste from schools and hotels to fatten their pigs
– Waste treatment facilities turning human waste into rich compost
– Social enterprises using plastic waste to create low-cost housing
Wherever there is waste, there is opportunity to create something of value. It’s not pretty right at the start when you’re dealing with the actual waste, but the end product should leave you proud.
The circular economy aims to put a stop to unnecessary waste, and as an entrepreneur, this should make monetary sense to you.
Our current business models are unsustainable. Our virgin materials are finite, and therefore need to be used carefully.
And if your answer is to create synthetic versions of our dwindling resources, ask yourself this:
1. Is it cost-efficient?
2. How much damage are your synthetic materials causing the planet?
There have been too many videos of waste burying cities, littering the ocean, and ending up in the guts of defenseless animals.
Instead of waste wreaking havoc, it can open up our economies. The circular economy is definitely the way to go. How are you going to adopt this model into your business?