Want to make your life more circular? We’re exploring how to embrace a less wasteful life by bringing circular economy principles into your purchases! With the festive season approaching, this article also provides some good inspiration for gifts that will last a lifetime. Leasing options, usership rather than ownership, subscription models…you name it, we’ll cover it! 

What is the circular economy again?

In brief, we are currently living within a linear economy of take, make and waste in order to grow. We get raw products from the earth, make them into stuff, then dispose of them after we’ve finished using them. However, with only a certain amount of raw materials on our earth, this model is wasteful, and means we are consuming more than our planet can support – with disastrous consequences! 

A circular economy is regenerative by design – a decoupling of growth from the consumption of resources. Basically, waste is no longer a term in a circular economy – products and services are designed to use resources in different ways, by different partners, within the system. Therefore, they never need to be disposed of. Resources always move within the system, hence the term ‘circular’. 

Cool, I like the theory, but what does that mean for me? 

Some business models [aka the way that businesses make money] are more circular than others. Some have designed their company to reduce waste, reduce excessive purchases of more goods and more efficiently utilise existing resources [both technical and natural]. 

There are a number of forms that this can take. Below we’ve listed the main types, and some example businesses which might be of interest to you: 

  1. Product Service

Producing a product according to performance outputs e.g. long-life, short-life, for re-use etc. 

  1. Dematerialised Service

Providing product benefit without a physical product 

  • Spotify
  • Netflix
  • Cloud Computing rather than manually storing information 

  1. Hiring and Leasing businesses

Rental and using products when needed. Reduces the number of products and also enables repair and maintenance to extend life of the product. 

  • Mud Jeans – leasing rather than buying your jeans
  • Zipcar – renting a car instead of buying one
  • Forbes Rental – weekly payment for rental of home electrics etc.
  • Hurr – Renting high-end clothes from Selfridges (newly launched) 
  • Library of Things – london-based rental of tools and rarely used useful equipment

  1. Collaborative Consumption

Rental of products between users (also called peer-to-peer lending)  

  • Fat llama – see our previous post about this one
  • Nuw – sharing of fashion items 
  • Airbnb – renting properties

  1. Incentivised Return and Reuse

Encouraging users to return items for reuse/recycling by offering value for goods

  1. Collecting used products

Collecting used products and ensuring reuse by appropriate industry

  • Refurbiz collect, refurbish and resell used “white” goods (i.e. fridges and washing machines)
  • Podback – Recycling your coffee pods, set up by Nespresso and other coffee brands. 

  1. Long life

A real bug-bear here at CE – designing products that last! 

  • Patagonia – designs clothes to last a life-time, with free repair service included for lifespan of the product 
  • Miele – engineer products for long life (10-20 years)
  • Kyocera printers are designed to only need to replace the toner, rather than the entire toner cartridge.
  • Fairphone – phone designed for durability, easy replacement of parts and limited use of precious resources.  

  1. Made to Order

Only producing as many products as customers demand – prevents ridiculous sales of unwanted products such as that witnessed last Friday at Pretty Little Thing

  • Paynter jackets – take orders at specific times of the year, and produce a fixed number of jackets based on these orders
  • Made furniture – designs furniture to order. 

Be Curious….

As a consumer and participant within the modern economy, our power lies in putting our well-earned money where our mouth is, trying out a new way of using goods and services that is more environmentally friendly. 

Why not give one of these companies a try?

Next time you go to buy a new pair of jeans, why not try leasing them instead? 

Or instead of buying a car, hire one?

Re-evaluate how you use products and services, and see if you need to buybuybuy, or whether renting, leasing or paying for a service rather than a product could deliver you the same satisfaction and quality. The benefits are multiple – to your pocket, product quality and (of course) to the planet! 

If you want to get super geeky/find out more, have a read of the following knowledge banks:

Ellen MacArthur Foundation – the oracle on all things circular 

WRAP UK organisation looking to utilise resources more efficiently. Big proponent in circular economy initiatives. 

ZeroWasteScotland – promoting efficient resource use across Scotland 

Circular Economy Club – network of individuals and organisations around the world scaling circular economy principles

C2Certified – certification for businesses to show employment of circular economy principles

Read these:

Kate Raworth – Doughnut Economics – a leader in circular economy thinking and a great read!

William McDonough – Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

And get in touch with us, let us know how you get on trailing a more circular way of spending your money! Send us further businesses of interest and we can add it to the list! May these examples bring you a new lease of life ……….