Content developed by Climate Reality Project and
Harvard Alumni for Climate and the Environment
To tackle the challenges of climate change, we need to shift our way of thinking and build a circular economy — where waste and pollution are designed out in the first place; products and materials stay in use for much longer; and natural systems can regenerate.
Moving toward a circular economy would make a crucial contribution toward preserving the environment and mitigating the climate crisis. Creating a circular economy for five key sectors — cement, aluminum, steel, plastics and food — could cut CO2 emissions by 3.7 billion tons in 2050, equivalent to eliminating current emissions from all forms of transport.
This is not just an environmental issue. It simply makes social and economic sense to make better use of scarce resources by designing a system to avoid waste and keep materials in use for longer. Consider the fact that there is 100 times more gold in a ton of discarded mobile phones than there is in a ton of gold ore. If we reduce food loss and waste by just a quarter, we could feed 870 million hungry people.
In this track, we’ll review the concept of a Circular Value Chain, provide the big opportunities that you can apply in your workplace, and point you to the tools, databases and organizations to help you on this journey. You’ll also hear from our impressive speaker team who will provide valuable information and resources.
The Circular Value Chain has 4 key elements: Business Model, Product Design, Production, and Consumption. This provides a framework for analyzing how circular economy concepts can be applied to individual organizations.
Business Model – Integrate product circularity into your Business Model (e.g. integration of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), transparency in product information, efficiency in production).
Product Design - How to design products for circularity (e.g., using second hand materials, ensuring recyclability, enabling reparability, encouraging reusability). Products need to be designed so that they can be used over and over and can be recycled, repaired and repurposed. This represents a shift in thinking.
Production – Producing products in a manner that minimizes waste. Many organizations do this well and part of the circular model is to embed this way of producing to all organizations.
Consumption – This concept is an extension of product design -- how do we enable circular product use (e.g. repair, reuse, sharing). This requires creating products that can do this but also marketing and educating consumers to do so.
Circular policies are under development in many countries and already in effect in others. By acting early, not only can organizations tackle the challenges of climate change, they can do so as industry leads, well ahead of regulation.
TED Speaker Page: Dame Ellen MacArthur
A World Without Waste | Kate E. Brandt
10 Musicians Taking on the Climate Crisis
Survival Architecture and the Art of Resilience
Closing the Loop, dirs. Graham Sheldon & Rin Sheldon (2018)
Humans Changed the Face of the Earth, Now We Rethink Our Future | EMF
Wasteland, dirs. Lucy Walker & Karen Harley (2010)
Jardim Gramacho outside Rio de Janeiro was the world’s largest landfill site before its closure in 2012 when toxic waste started leaking into the sea. Those who lived nearby earned a crust by sifting through the mountains of rubbish. This heart-warming documentary tells the story of Vik Muniz, a renowned New York artist, who came to make portraits of the scavengers. His aim? To sell the paintings and give the money directly back to the people in them. Waste Land gives an insight into the lives of the adults and children who spend their days on the dump and showcases the power of art and its ability to bring out the beauty in people.
Circular economy new business models | Tom Szaky
Dame MacArthur shares her vision of a circular economy for a better planet
World Bank Circular Economy Video
The True Cost, directed by Andrew Morgan (2015) [Clothing sustinability]
Surprising thing I learned sailing solo around the world | Dame MacArthur
The Circular Economy | Kristin Kinder
TED Speaker Page: William McDonough
Taking Trash Talk to a Whole New Level | Peter Harris
A Plastic Ocean, directed by Craig Leeson (2017)
Journalist Craig Leeson and free diver Tanya Streeter illustrate the consequences of eight million tonnes of plastic being dumped into the oceans each year. The result is shocking. Plastic is not only posing a threat to marine life but is also in our food chain. There’s poignant footage of seals and turtles strangled by plastic and dead birds that never stood a chance. The documentary stresses that it isn’t too late for us to make the change for a better future and that simple measures such as recycling and using reusable containers can make all the difference.
Sustainability through a circular economy | Maayke Damen
TED Playlist: Reduce, reuse, recycle