Heard about the great plastic send-back? Or the garbage ‘island’ floating in the pacific? Or climate change? Sound familiar? Not to catastrophize or anything, but these are just a few well-known ways our current production-consumption patterns are hurting our lives and the planet.
The ‘circular economy’ is a new philosophical approach to the global market. The idea is to prevent waste from being produced or to use waste to produce something else.
It seems simple enough, but this shift in thought is provoking companies to stop using single-use materials that end up in landfills and start figuring out how to deal with emissions and the waste we already have.
Since this shift in thought, many companies have pushed to become more sustainable, but a few stand out among the rest. In no particular order, here are 7 of the leaders in the circular economy from different industries:
1. Food Waste: Winnow (Honorable Mention: Olio)
Winnow is trying to combat one of today’s most depressing issues — that there are tonnes of food thrown away every minute while billions of people face hunger every day.
Unlike other approaches to reducing food waste, like donation or composting (think Olio, who we mentioned in a previous article), Winnow is an artificial intelligence-based service that calculates how to cut usage in commercial kitchens or other large-scale food production.
This alternative approach makes it so restaurants, cafes and catering companies source and produce exactly the right amount of food. Winnow works similar to a Nest, the AI thermostat which keeps your home’s temperature at precisely the most efficient and comfortable, it analyses a kitchen to make sure chefs order the exact right amount of food.
2. Textiles: Patagonia
Patagonia has actually been a circular economy leader since before the term was coined. Led by one of the brightest minds of our day, Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia started making products from plastic bottles in the ’90s. You could say Patagonia was sustainable before it was cool.
They have a track record of making sturdy, long-life clothing products and being careful about their supply-chain. In the past, they’ve had a very quick response when finding out about any unfair-trade or unsustainability in their production process. Patagonia’s newest lines feature materials made mostly from recycled textiles and plastic with the same long-life guarantee that the company is known for.
So, if you’re ever wondering if it’s worth a little extra cash for better quality stuff, Patagonia will prove it to you and your hipster friends.
3. Plastics: Loop Industries
With all the media attention paid to the world’s plastic problem, governments, individuals, and companies are finally beginning to make big changes in plastic recycling. For example, India has started to ban all single-use plastic.
But, as Ronald Reagan might have said, sometimes the best way to make a change is to make it profitable. Loop Industries has taken this capitalist tenet and made it fit with the oft at-odds sustainability model.
The company is making its products not only super affordable but also sourced from fully recycled materials. In the coming years, both Coke and Pepsi will be sourcing all its plastic products from companies like Loop Industries.
4. Travel: Enerkem
You may be familiar with Solar, Wind and Geothermal energy production, but Enerkem is a company looking to come at clean power from a different direction. This Canada-based organization works to turn garbage into important energy-producing biofuels and chemicals.
They’ve gotten rid of 90 percent of Edmonton’s (a city on the cold prairies of Alberta, Canada that you’ve probably never heard of) waste by reusing it in transportation. Enerkem is growing fast and will hopefully take on projects for more cities throughout the world soon.
The basic idea behind Enerkem is that they take the carbon from our trash and use that instead of non-renewable energy sources. Pretty smart, huh?
5. Beauty: Ethique
Beyond energy, some companies are even rethinking the way we shower. Ethique is a packaging-free toiletries and beauty product line with a huge assortment to choose from. They have turned shampoos, conditioners, and lotions into bars that last much longer than their liquid counterparts.
While switching to bar-form is a trend in the industry right now, Ethique also has the benefit of being carbon neutral as a company. It is also vegan-friendly, and it provides its employees with a living wage. That’s ticking all the boxes in my book!
6. Construction and Infrastructure: Close the Loop
In response to China’s refusal to accept any more of the world’s plastic waste for recycling, Cambodia and other East Asian countries have received tonnes of plastic from countries like the USA and Canada. In response, they’ve vowed to send it back. Which begs the question, what should we do with all of our waste?
In Australia, Close the Loop decided they could use local plastic waste to start building local roads. These roads last much longer than typical asphalt and put a dent in the huge plastic problem their country is facing.
All we can do for now is hope Close the Loop’s roads cross out of the Australian market and into worldwide infrastructure ASAP.
7. Tech: Hulii
I’ve now covered 6 huge industries in today’s global market but I haven’t yet touched on tech, the modern age’s big conundrum.
On the one hand, technology is what makes a lot of the circular economy possible. But at the same time, there are major issues with technology manufacturing, the carbon footprint of usage (think about all of the power it takes to support the world’s servers), and the question of how on earth to recycle our old phones, computers, and other gadgets.
Hulii is one company that is very proud to offer a solution to two sides of the tech-sustainability issue — manufacturing and recycling. Smartphones are one of the most difficult tech products to recycle due to the amalgamation of chemical and material compounds used in their creation.
The best option, therefore, for most smartphone users is actually not to buy new smartphones at all. Buying refurbished is more cost-effective, obviously, but most people don’t realize that it’s also a super-sustainable option too.
While buying the latest-and-greatest phone is certainly a trend, being sustainable is even cooler. Think about it this way —- if you could get a perfect condition refurbished iPhone for less money while knowing you were doing the right thing for the planet and society, wouldn’t you?