Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: a three word maxim for the conscious consumer. But while these guidelines seem to have been relegated to how we dispose of our household waste, moving towards circular systems in more aspects of our everyday life could have a number of positive environmental benefits.
The continuing disruption of the Earth’s natural cycles calls for a more sustainable way of operating, and rethinking the linear systems that dominate our society today.
A circular economy requires the cooperation of everyone involved at each level. This starts with the design process; using natural materials that biodegrade, or can be easily repurposed or remanufactured, as well as creating long lasting products that don’t negatively impact the environment. As consumers, we have to make the most of each product before disposing of it, or repairing and refurbishing items when needed.
This not only means we get the maximum value from our purchases, but could discourage the old impulse buy if we are unwilling to commit to an item for its lifespan.
But what happens when products reach the limit of their usability? This is where a departure from a linear system is crucial. Where products might end up in landfill or incineration plants, with a circular system we can actively contribute towards regeneration of living systems, increase the lifespan of a product and power the process with renewable energy – all by rethinking the way we operate.
This means differentiating between biological and technical cycles, or how we dispose of natural materials and how we can repurpose or remanufacture components.
So how do we make a difference as consumers and make more conscious choices?
Manufacturers that encourage their clients to send used products back are leading the way in this kind of circular thinking. One Tree at a Time uses Rapanui to create our t-shirts; they use all natural fibres and when each t-shirt has reached the end of its life, it can be sent back and remanufactured into a new one. By reducing the need for the extraction and import of raw materials the whole cycle can go back to the beginning.
Recycling, however, should be seen as a last resort.
What are we doing?
At One Tree at a Time we want to emphasise the importance of extending a product’s lifespan, which is why we created our ‘Fix It’ days, giving people the chance to repair used ski wear, or donate clothing that is no longer useful for them so that someone else can enjoy it. As a result we’ve kept hundreds of items out of landfill, while also raising thousands of euros for tree planting projects.
Our aim is to help as many people as possible rethink the way they purchase, use and dispose of products, and ultimately reduce our impact on the planet and keep enjoying the environments we love.