Updated: 5 days ago

One of the biggest challenges experienced amongst the environmental and climate movements is making the economy sustainable or at least getting countries to work towards it.


Getting 193 countries to sign-up for the Paris Climate Agreement was tough going and some countries, not naming or shaming (USA) pulled out of the agreement. But, thankfully the USA is fully committed now. So, you’re probably thinking moving from the linear economic system (we have now) towards a circular economy seems like expecting to see a snowstorm in the Sahara Desert. With the unpredictability of our climate, anything is possible.


Working towards a circular economy isn’t wishful thinking I’m going to explain exactly how you can be part of it or at least in small ways. Read on to find out how!



Table of Contents


1. Defining the Economy

2. How Does the (current) Economic System Work?

3. What is a Circular Economy?

4. The Problems with the Linear Economy

5. The Benefits of a Circular Economy

6. How Can You Be Part of the Circular Economy?

Defining the Economy


Before we dive into what and how the circular economy works, it’s important to know about the current economic system, which is an integral part of every country. As I’m not an economist nor an expert in world economies, I went and looked at various reliable sources.


The Economy Explained – Very Briefly


To understand how our current economic system works, first, we need to know what is the economy? This is difficult to do, considering different sources give their definitions and countries have their interpretations.


The Bank of England gives two perspectives. I did say it will be complicated, but luckily, I’ll break it down into understandable size pieces.

The economists define it as the study of scarcity before you shout out "isn’t the whole point of an economy to produce so people have more things to buy", yes, it is but resources such as raw materials, land and workers are limited – “while the demand for them is infinite”. To put it simply, we always want more. I’m not going to diverge into explaining scarcity as this blog will never end. However, here is a video that explains it all.

"Our necessities are few but our wants are endless."

- George Bernard Shaw

Common textbook definition of economy is a “system for distributing scarce resources”. When we talk about ‘the’ economy it usually refers to countries.

Some countries follow a system where for the most part, the government controls resources and levels of production. On the other hand, the majority of the countries in the world have freer economies determined by supply and demand. I’m going to elaborate later and explain why it’s easier to transition into a circular economy from a more open economy.


I did say defining the economy is complicated. If you’re still reading, it means you’re curious to find out how our current economic system works.

How Does the (current) Economic System Work?


Whether it’s a linear or circular economy, the system is in place to meet these fundamentals:


1. How to allocate limited resources— from production to individuals and organizations as well as to best satisfy unlimited needs.

2. What goods and services to produce and in what quantities?

3. Who produces the goods and services?

4. How is it distributed to consumers?


To give your eyes some rest, I have created this simple diagram to explain how the current economic system works.



Linear Economic Diagram

The current economic system is based on fast production, overconsumption and disposing of the product once we are done with it. Now you can see why it’s linear and has a devasting impact on the environment, in simple terms, raw materials are extracted, usually used once and then goes straight to the landfill.

Now let’s look at how the circular economy compares.

What is a Circular Economy?



Can you see what’s missing in the circular economy? In a truly circular economy waste is eliminated or a least minimised to biodegradable waste. A circular economy can only work when recyclable raw materials are extracted, otherwise, it defeats the purpose of being a circular economy. Once recyclable materials are sourced, the production and distribution have to be sustainably processed. At this stage it is based on three principles:


  1. Effectively manage waste and design out pollution from the start.

  2. Keeping materials in use over and over and manufacturer products that can easily be recycled.

  3. Fundamentally using renewable resources for energy, whilst revitalising ecosystems.


Once the products are distributed out into society, it comes down to us as individuals to make conscious decisions and use our judgement to effectively manage our waste.

The Problems with the Linear Economy

Unlike the circular economy, the linear economy is based on the principles of "take-make-waste". Let’s go back to the beginning, in a linear economy, most raw materials are non-recyclable.



Take these standard t-shirts, for example, simply by looking at them you won’t know that one is made from renewable resources and the other made from mixed materials that are harder to recycle (of course by touching it you’ll figure it out).


Most t-shirts manufactured by big brands contain at least two or three different materials. Most sportswear is made from a lycra-cotton blend. Lyra is a synthetic manmade fibre created from polyurethane.


Although it is durable, the downside is it doesn’t break down easily. If you’re interested in the journey of how clothes are made and want to learn about different materials that go into your clothes, I would recommend checking out this website.


On the flip side, a t-shirt made from bamboo works well in a circular economy. Why? Because bamboo can be recycled over and over without losing its durability and can be turned into other products. Most importantly, once the bamboo made t-shirt reaches its lifespan, it can easily break down in nature.

Some people would argue that the linear economy works because it gives society more choice in the market, which then allows the markets to be open and competitive and it allows small businesses to start and flourish more easily. I’m going to try and debunk some of these arguments under the benefits of a circular economy.

To put it bluntly, the linear economy is designed around meeting demand whilst maximising profits, there is very little or no emphases on working with the environment, but rather generating waste which devastates our eco-systems.

The Benefits of a Circular Economy


1. Innovation is endless – replacing linear products and systems opens up a wide spectrum of ideas and innovations. Some of the benefits include untapped technical development, sourcing of natural materials, energy efficiency and more growth opportunities for companies.


2. Job opportunities – In the circular economy, new industries would be able to establish, such as waste management, higher-skilled jobs in small to medium enterprises and entrepreneurship.


3. Revitalizing the environment – By ensuring to use of recyclable materials during production, means designing out waste and minimising pollution. Further, keeping materials in use means effectively utilizing rather than destroying natural systems, the circular economy contributes to achieving climate targets.


4. Radically reducing carbon emissions – The EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan is an ambitious development path to make the circular economy a reality. Under the new action plan, the EU aims to ‘make sustainable products the norm’, ‘make circularity work for people’ and "encourage green growth" by managing the life cycle of natural resources.


5. Opportunities for individuals - Hopefully you’re now convinced that the linear economy works well for businesses and not so much for the environment or the people. The circular economy will not only work wonders for businesses, the economy and the environment but also for the people. For instance, increased disposable income (as the cost of products would be reduced), improved health conditions (as air pollution and water contamination will be significantly reduced) and innovation in technologies will mean higher quality products (thus overcoming desuetude).

How Can You Be Part of the Circular Economy?

This circular economy seems like wishful thinking, right? Well not necessarily, the notion of living in a circular economy has its historical origins and many people are realising that the current linear economic system is not adequate to resolve global issues. Already there are small enterprises as well as on the grassroots level extraordinary people are making the circular economy a reality.

This transition needs traction for us to be able to truly enjoy living in a circular economic system. For the circular economy to take root and work within our ecosystem, it fundamentally comes down to conscious consumption.

You can be part of the circular economy by supporting small to medium-size enterprises, shopping consciously and eradicating waste.

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Updated: 3 days ago



The Environmental Impact and Global Shipping.


Next day deliveries are great! More even, tracking your orders and seeing every time stamp to see exactly where your product is, just builds up the excitement. In a matter of no time there is your favourite person at the front door, yes, the delivery person with a big smile and pleasantly hands over your package.


You’re probably thrilled by the fact you’ve opted to offset your carbon footprint by choosing plastic-free packaging or at least more sustainable packaging. This is all worthwhile, however, shipping has a bigger environmental impact, read on to find out how.


The great thing about modern technology is that we have more shipping options at our disposal. Further, products can be shipped in various forms and methods, and we all want our packages sent and received promptly.


How much carbon emissions are emitted from shipping?


It depends on many factors, such as emissions by transport mode, if you opt for next-day delivery, whether the product is locally sourced, and the list goes on. Just to put into perspective, in 2018 global shipping contributed to 1,056 million tons of CO₂ emissions, now compare that to 2012 which was 962 million tons of CO₂ emissions. However, on a positive note, emissions for 2020 are predicted to be a lot lower due to the pandemic and lock-downs imposed by most countries at different stages in 2020.


Although this is great for the Earth, as countries start to ease lock-downs and open up their economies, we will see carbon emissions reach back to their high levels. We can still do our part by doing research on the products we buy and choosing to shop consciously. Luckily, mylilEarth helps you with your journey to a zero-waste lifestyle and by subscribing you'll be the first to know about tips and tricks to living sustainably.




We can further break down 1,056 million tons of CO₂ emissions by transport type as shown in this chart. There is no surprise that 74% of emissions come from road vehicles and of that 29 % is from freight transportation.


What is the environmental impact of online shopping?


Online shopping will certainly reduce your carbon footprint, in contrast to driving to the stores. Also, consider other factors such as how many stores you’ll visit and whether you need to do the shopping for your household. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean by shopping online you’ll be landing yourself in carbon-neutral heaven.


It’s midweek and you’re probably working from home and stuck in a morning Zoom call that isn’t going anywhere. So, what do you do? I don’t know about you, but I’d be doing some online shopping and in a couple of clicks my delivery is on its way. I saw some swanky looking headphones and without really thinking about my CO₂ footprint I clicked order. Can you relate?



On average next-day deliveries cost the Earth 2kg CO₂e per item purchased.


Let’s look at how much the delivery of my headphone is going to cost the Earth. Well, it depends on a number of factors. I opted for rush delivery as I was eager to get them the next day, in doing so I contributed 1.8kg C0₂e for that one item. Now if I opted for standard slower delivery that would come down to 1.4kg C0₂e. This number may seem rather low, but CO₂ emissions emitted per online shopper will be drastically different, as we all have different shopping habits.


Here are 3 things you can do right now to reduce your CO₂ emissions whilst shopping online:


1. How urgently do you need it?


If it’s not essentials (i.e. medication, food etc) then the chances are, you don’t urgently need it. When you select next day delivery, most likely the item will be delivered in a partially empty van. You can offset your CO₂ footprint by choosing a later delivery date. If you do need it urgently consider borrowing it from a friend, or go down to your local thrift shop.


2. Do your research on the product.


Check where the product is manufactured and supplied from. For instance, you saw an amazing outfit online but it’s made somewhere in Asia, once that product is dispatched it would have already contributed hundreds-thousand tons of CO₂ emissions as it had to travel from far. Etsy.com and bonanza.com are great sites that offer a handmade, bespoke range of products from home essentials, health & beauty and fashion. And the great thing is you’ll be supporting local artisans and businesses, at the same time you'll know exactly what goes into making your products and where they are coming from.

3. Say NO to excessive packaging.


Having our favourite products delivered on time has a devastating impact on the environment, but excessive packaging is something you’ll need to fight off to reduce your CO₂ footprint. Firstly, search for products without plastic packaging and if that is a struggle message the seller requesting not to include plastic-packing.


If you don't get a reply or they refuse to use plastic-free packaging, look up unboxing videos as this would give you an indication of how the product is packaged and it's a great way to find out more about the product before you spend your hard earn cash. You could also check out your local thrift shop or other stores locally to see if you can find a similar product.


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Updated: Jun 2

(updated 02/06/21)

Lady looking out of the window

Winter means chilly air, frosty snow, and lots of blankets. However, it also means winter blues and a phenomenon called a seasonal affective disorder. About 5% of Americans experience this form of seasonal depression each year, and somewhere around 10-20% of Americans experience a milder form of it.

Areas of the world that receive fewer hours of daylight are more prone to seasonal affective disorder. This makes sense because the cause of winter blues is a lack of natural sunlight. Low light equals a drop in serotonin and an increase in melatonin production.

However, it is possible to fight off those winter blues, and you can even do it sustainably. I will tell you how!


Beat the Winter Blues- Sustainably


We truly appreciate the winter months at mylilEarth, but winter blues are a real struggle. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) can be treated with light therapy, but simple practices that target one’s overall well-being will help too.


Disclaimer:


Everything mentioned in this post is for information only. I’m not a psychotherapist or an expert on mental health. This post is solely for giving you some guidelines and tips. Always do your own research and seek professional help.


1. Go Out in Nature


out in nature
By Cliford Mervil

Feeling cooped up in the house all day (and night) is sure to aggravate those winter blues. So, take a quick walk around your neighbourhood to get fresh air. Maybe even go for a hike or spend the whole day outdoors for some much-needed vitamin D.

Pack yourself a healthy lunch or snack to eat while enjoying the wintry beauty of your surrounding landscape. Instead of plastic cutlery, opt for a foldable spork and spoons travel and use your reusable containers.



2. Eat an Organic, Mood-Boosting Diet

Organic Food
By Ella Olsson

A great sustainable way to beat the winter blues (SAD) is through your diet. Eating an organic, healthy, rich diet full of vitamins and essential amino acids will contribute to a happier you.


Foods like salmon, bananas, nuts, and eggs can help with mood-boosting and maintain energy levels. Also, your body will appreciate a well-balanced diet.


Did you know bananas act as a natural antidepressant? Every time you feel a little down, eat a banana. Bananas are great for tackling depression because they are high in tryptophan. Which is another source of protein that converts into mood-lifting serotonin.



3. Wear a Colourful Wardrobe (from the Thrift Shop)


thrift shop
By Girl With Red Hat

We all need a little colour in our lives and the colours you wear can affect your mood. Colour is created based on certain frequencies of light, and our brain picks up on those frequencies. So, clothes that are colourful, bright, and “feel” uplifting just by looking at them are tied to happiness.

Needless to say, clothing with warm colours should be your go-to closet-grabs this winter season. For a sustainable edge, repurpose your old clothes or take a trip to your local thrift store.



4. Spoil Yourself Once in a While or Every Time



Eating the right food is one way of keeping your morale high. But, have you been treating yourself right this winter? Having some time to yourself isn’t self-fish many psychologists and health experts say self-care is necessary for your mind to distress and for your body to rejuvenate. Take this time to do things you enjoy, such as pampering yourself, go back to forgotten hobbies or simply self-reflect on your personal development.


5. Zen-out, Try Meditation


Meditation
By Jared Rice

Whether you’re spiritual or not, as part of your self-care routine incorporate meditation, use this time to self-reflect or contemplate on your goals. Just like a balance-diet is fundamental for your body, mediation is vital for your mental health. John Davidson outlines the benefits of meditation in his book, Health Benefits of Meditation. It is well known by psychologists that mediation helps with anxieties, stress, and increased imagination and creativity.


6. Reach Out to Lost Contacts.


Phone call, reach out
By Alexander Andrews

The pandemic has made it difficult to meet loved ones, especially when we feel a little down and just need that personal touch. However, before social media and other streams of communication people used to just make phone calls. It’s relatively easy, all you need to do is go through your contact list, it could be anyone mum, best friend or that one person you had a meaningful conversation with two years ago. I’m sure they will be delighted to hear from you, and most importantly you’ll feel less lonely.


7. Try Indoor Gardening


Indoor plants
By Huy Phan

Plants are living, breathing creations of nature. Even if you feel like you don’t have a green thumb, try indoor gardening. Some plants are hard to kill (Pothos and snake plants are two), so start there.


If you find your brown thumb is turning green, try growing some of your favourite herbs, for example, Mint, Oregano, Chives and Dill require very little sunlight, these herbs are ideal for growing in small apartments with little natural light.

Having a plant in your home will infuse life into your space. Plants are also excellent for purifying the air and sending out clean oxygen in return.


8. Seek Professional Help


consult a Psychotherapist
By Priscilla Du Preez

If you have tried the above and regular exercise but still find no relief from winter blues, perhaps it’s best to seek professional help.


Individuals suffering from SAD should consult a Psychotherapist or see if you can find therapy groups at your local health or community centres, usually these services are free and offer valuable information.

There is ample support available, I like the work Samaritans do, they offer emotional support to anyone in distress, 24/7. Another website I like to use for general tips for managing stress or information on mental health is Verywell mind. This website is easy to use, you can find any information from how to maintain motivational levels to tips on getting good quality sleep.


Winter Won’t Last Forever


Winter only lasts for a few short months, so remember to put yourself first and take some time out to self-reflect.


Everything I have mentioned can be done without destroying our Earth. Therefore, do what you can (sustainably) to lift your spirits until spring blossoms again.

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