Hands up who’s heard of the circular economy?
Maybe lots of you, maybe just a few – it was a term new to me when I read about it a couple of months back. For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s basically the concept that you get the most possible use out of a single product over it’s lifetime, and then break down its component parts for reuse or recycling when the item has come to the end of its life. No waste, is the idea. It’s not a new idea of course, but its definitely having a bit of a higher profile moment, and that’s no bad thing. From plastic free to zero waste to sustainable living – it’s all a little closer to the forefront of our minds these days, bearing in mind that we only have 12 years to save the earth. (Where’s Flash Gordon when you need him? He could do it in 14 hours.)
I’m not a devout follower of any particular ‘movement’ – I am trying to reduce our family’s (and the company’s) plastic use where possible, I am trying to reduce waste in general by making reusable alternatives where possible (also a money saver) – but I do think that, for me at least, making huge sweeping changes isn’t the answer – it’s too big a challenge, I’ll get disheartened and eventually give up. I know this about myself in other situations – make something completely off limits and its THE ONLY THING I WANT. But little steps really do add up – each time something runs out, like cleaning products, for example – I try and look for a less wasteful, eco friendly plastic-avoiding replacement.
If you’re a fan of the small steps approach, I can heartily recommend GikiZero – a totally free guide to ‘understand, track and lighten your footprint on the planet’. It’s bursting with simple suggestions of things you can do in your everyday life to be a bit more eco. And I’ve found, the more you do, the more you want to do. Start with a few easy peasy steps (you can even search their suggestions by difficulty level!) and you soon find yourself looking for something bigger to tackle.
Anyway, back to the circular economy. As I read about it, I thought, how funny that when we started this business we were really doing that without knowing it. Taking a piece of furniture that had finished it’s useful life with someone else, and turning it into something that could continue for another lifetime’s use. Some parts need replacing, of course (and foam is still a major problem – it’s not recyclable, and it must be replaced for safety) but the frame of the chair can be repaired, sanded, painted, sanded again, painted again…even though I didn’t know the name for it, the idea of reusing something, not throwing things away if there is something else to be done with it, just seemed like common sense.
Lots of people buy vintage simply because they love the look, which is brilliant, but you vintage shoppers also deserve a pat on the back for actually taking a more ethical and sustainable approach to furnishing your homes. You’re stealth eco-warriors! Secret green high five!
I’ve come across a number of companies embracing this circular idea – Rapanui, for example, ask you to send back your clothes when they’re worn out, so that they can be recycled. (You have to pay the postage but you get a discount off your new Rapanui togs). Lush and Neal’s Yard will take back empty pots and containers to recycle them when you’ve used up all the product. (Lush also do lots of ‘naked’ products – packaging free. I absolutely love Lush, but I appreciate it’s not for the faint of nose.) And now even Ikea will take back old furniture when it gives up the ghost – hopefully this kind of initiative will spread worldwide.
But there’s even more going on out there – we just don’t all know about it. So what are some of your favourite sustainable or ethical companies? What are they doing that impresses you? I’d love to know. Also if anyone has any ideas of what to do with old foam, I’d love to hear it…
Have a green and wonderful week!