Seems we are always encouraged to consume. Things wear out quicker, styles constantly change and single use and disposable items are heavily marketed. As I see our population increase and hungrily consume at such a rapid pace, I wonder what will be left for future generations. Capitalism is based on consumption, so how can we keep consuming without running out of resources? How about consuming waste? We have plenty of that! Imagine Zero Waste.
Zero waste isn’t a new concept. The movement gained momentum 1998-2002. Visionaries are busy researching how to put theory into action. This concept is thoroughly explored by William McDonough & Michael Braungart in “Cradle to Cradle” and “The Upcycle”. They say “waste is simply poor design”.
While Industry has improved our lives making it cleaner and more convenient, its infrastructure is linear – they make the product, get it to us as quickly & cheaply as possible, rely on an endless supply of resources, rely on us consuming; then waste pollutes our environment, goes into landfills and their potential is lost.
When we are “eco-efficient”, we consume less and recycle. While these strategies save our natural resources, the mindset is based on scarcity and guilt with the environment and industry pitted against each other. With an “eco-effective” model, industry and the environment work together and eliminate waste by design. We become a world of abundance!
For this to work, first we need to eliminate some synthetics that are too toxic to reuse. Then we can use and reuse biological and technical products. Biological – Imagine if packaging (50% of our solid waste) was designed as a nutrient that enhanced the soil and factory water byproducts were clean enough to drink. Technical cycle – Imagine instead of buying products, we purchased the service of a product. When finished, the manufacturer would replace it, and reuse the material from the old product. We can indulge guilt-free, industry saves money by reusing valuable materials and uses less raw materials. These same concepts can be applied to urban planning, buildings, food production, energy and transportation systems.
The authors see the first critical steps as rebuilding our soil, converting to renewable energy, and to stop introducing unknown chemicals and materials. We have the technology and intellectual capacity to accomplish this! With visionaries like these, ecological and economic sustainability is possible. That’s encouraging! But for now, we’ll Reduce, Reuse & Recycle!