A circular economy was defined by the World Economic Forum as an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. Often the term circular economy is associated with “reduce, reuse, recycle,” however a circular economy looks at the big picture. The three key parts of CE is that it designs out waste and pollution, keeps products and materials in use, and regenerates living systems. The circular economy was created to mimic the Earth’s natural processes, therefore creating the term cradle to cradle.
A circular economy is important because its main goal is to throw away nothing, allowing for us to produce less. Less thrown away means that there is less waste. It was shocking to find out that 90 percent of raw materials aren’t being used, if we could get that percentage down by 40 percent at least we would be producing half as much waste. Another fact that I thought was interesting but also didn’t surprise me was that in the last 15 years clothing production has doubled but the clothing lasts half as long. We live in a materialistic society and the idea of living with less is a scary idea to most. We can’t picture our lives with half the things we have today, yet we probably couldn’t tell you the last time we used these things. Manufacturers are finding ways to mass produce clothing at low costs, therefore the consumer may be buying more to compensate for the poor quality. I think this study abroad trip was a good testament to the fact that we can live with less. I brought what I thought was enough clothing for three weeks but only wore half of it. As a community, we need to learn to consume less or at least follow a cradle to cradle pattern giving these goods a new life. The reading shared that the economy must make the shift from linear to circular in order to produce less waste and become more resourceful. Out of 300 million metric tons of plastic produced annually, only 12 percent is reused or recycled. That is a small fraction of the plastic being regenerated while we have all the resources to do so. I thought all the charts throughout the article were very helpful in understanding these numbers.
Some of the benefits of a circular economy are improved health, reduced cost of materials, creates new jobs, and reduces primary material consumption by 32 percent. Those are just a handful of positive reasons to switch to a circular economy and it’s safe to say they outweigh the negative.
Prior to this class I had never heard of a circular economy and it was a new term to me alongside a linear economy. Circular economies have gained popularity in recent years as they influence governments, businesses, and environmentalists. Traditionally we have learned the 3 R’s since elementary school: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and many believe this is the basis for a circular economy but that is not completely true. If we look at the bigger picture for a circular economy there is much more to it than the traditional 3 R’s. The 3 R’s tie in better with a linear economy where there is a one way flow with a beginning and an end but a circular economy does not have an end because everything produced is transferred and used somewhere else continuously.
The circular economy works in three steps, 1- Designs out waste and pollution, 2- Keeps products and materials in use, 3- Regenerates living systems. These three steps are very important as they all go hand in hand with each other and keep the loop going in a circular economy while being sustainable for our environment. The motto for a circular economy comes from Antoine- Laurent de lavoiser which is, “Nothing is lost, everything is transformed.” This quote guides the circular economy as its goal isn’t for it to come to an end but instead to create harmony with our economy and our environment to prosper. A circular economy relies heavily on regeneration as all these products and services contribute to systems that can be renewed or replenished continuously over multiple lifecycles and uses.
A circular economy is very important for a sustainable future because it aims to throw away nearly nothing. This is very important as we currently put a lot of waste in our world, especially through consumption. We must take care of this now pollution is on the rise from over consumption as a direct result of our capitalistic society, our world is continuing to grow and we must take care of it. We are currently dominated by a linear economy and this is not sustainable enough as according to the reading only 12% of 300 million metric tons of plastic is reused/recycled which is a very small percentage. As the other 88% goes to waste we are missing out on many opportunities as almost all of the 88% could be transformed and regenerated. We as a society need to move towards a circular economy as it benefits consumers, the economy, businesses, and the environment.
I absolutely loved our class trip to Hydra. This by far was my favorite island. I love how it seemed like a small town where locals can enjoy the tourists for a few days but can still enjoy their land. It reminded me a lot of my hometown. The reading for Hydra was interesting because I got to learn more about the way the island operates as a tourist destination, but also how it maintains life for the local Hydra residents. The one thing that is noticeable when going to the island is how there are no cars except for a couple of trash trucks. In this day in age, it is rare to find a piece of society that still operates this way. This trait makes them look eco-friendly because they are cutting out carbon emissions. Even though people say they do not use cars because there is no place for them to be driven, it still allows them to maintain a sustainable advantage. However, the island is not as sustainable as one may think. The garbage disposal process uses the “out of sight, out of mind” technique where they burn all the garbage in a disclosed area. This is not great for the environment, as we have learned, because this releases toxic chemicals into the area. These man-made chemicals are some of the worst ones for humans, as well. Adding to this, their wastewater is pumped into the sea in the dead of night, which can alter life in the sea. The small island has been growing in popularity as a tourist destination over the years. This raises a social issue problem. Many people have summer houses in Hydra, but these people live like locals. However, over the years, housing costs have increased, which has caused people who live on the island full time not be able to afford a place to live. A small minority becomes rich at the expense of a majority, which is not sustainable to the community. Forcing people out of their original community has increased the social tension. The main thing that is being affected are the local economic activities. This can include fishing and agriculture, which is a big part of the island. However, with the social tension, these traits have collapsed, which makes it hard to support the country economically. Overall, Hydra is a beautiful place that needs to improve its sustainable efforts.
I have learned a significant amount about linear and circular economies during the span of the course, which is interesting because I was not informed about this topic prior to the class. I understand the traditional form of supply chain, which is the linear model. This is where the products or services are thrown out at the end of the cycle. However, a circular economy closes this traditional loop, which allows products and services to be used as long as possible. This reduces waste because everything that is produced can be transferred and used somewhere else within the supply chain. The circular economy designs out waste and pollution, keeps products and materials in use, and regenerates living systems. This makes this economy more sustainable for our world. The mindset with this economy is that “nothing is lost, everything is transformed”. Regeneration is a key concept within a circular economy. This means that products and services, within this form of economy, contribute to systems that renew or replenish themselves throughout various life cycles, which means that there are multiple forms of uses. Over 90% of raw materials are not reused, so this shows how much of a need a circular economy is in this day and age. Our current industrial economy is dominated by the linear process, which supports the fact that humanity today uses an equivalent of 1.6 Earths to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. Even more scary, 8-% of the $3.2 trillion worth of materials used each year is not even recovered. We need a circular economy more than ever. There are benefits within the economic, business, environment, and consumer sectors. For example, new jobs are created, volatility is stabilized, greenhouse gas emissions are lowered, and health is improved. However, there are some barriers within a circular economy. The barriers are within cultural, market, regulatory, and technological sectors. With the cultural sector, we lack awareness and willingness to engage with the circular economy. In the market sector, we lack the economic viability of circular econ business models. In the regulatory sector, we lack policies that support a circular economic transition. In the technological sector, we lack the technology needed to implement a circular economy. Overall, I hope we will be able to slowly phase out of the linear supply chain model and adopt a circular economy due to the sustainable impacts that come with making the transition.
Over the week, we were able to listen to two guest speakers during our Green Supply Chain Management course. The first speaker was from the American College of Greece’s department of sustainability. Here, she spoke about what the college does to help improve their sustainable mindset, goals, and attitudes. I found the most important details in the discussion to be about how sustainability is not just focused on environmental issues. Sustainability can feature social, political, environmental, and other topics. I enjoyed getting to hear her perspective about how creating funds for the students to attend the American College of Greece allows a social sustainable mindset to be formed. I liked her perspective about changing the sustainability colors for the school from green to blue and orange. This allows the topic to cover more of a broad scope and allows people’s perceptions to think about other topics and not just environmental issues.
I loved getting to hear the discussion between the people who work at the United State’s Embassy in Greece. I was not educated about international business or even what the United States Embassy provides, so everything that was discussed was truly interesting. I am interested in working for small businesses, and eventually opening my own, and it was interesting to hear about the services they provide for these businesses who want to expand internationally. I enjoyed hearing the stories about how they started working for the embassy, and what their roles are currently. The amount of travel was what truly shocked me the most. After hearing that diplomats can be relocated every four years, I understood that it takes a special person to do this occupation. It was interesting to hear how the government pays for the necessary items, that would be expected in the United States, for the United States employees. I found it interesting the kind of work the diplomats must do. I was not sure exactly what their job consisted of, so it was exciting to hear about all the trade decisions they get to be a part of. I thought all the ladies were incredible presenters who truly wanted us to get the most out of their conversation. I never thought about expanding a business internationally, but they truly made me consider it for the future. I am glad to have learned from the office of sustainability and the United States embassy during class this week.
I really enjoyed listening and learning about sustainability within ACG and the US Embassy’s presentation. The ACG Office Sustainability speaker was very passionate about her work and very proud of her accomplishments. I found her enthusiasm to be quite inspiring because she really did enjoy talking about sustainability. I found it interesting how she said anyone in any major can join the club which is a great opportunity because sustainability has become so prominent in every industry today. Having the chance to practice more sustainable measures within the university increases the knowledge of other students who may want to do the same but do not necessarily know where to start. I also found her point that for sustainability to pick up a cultural shift also needs to occur. In the United States she has long practiced the use of reusable water bottles and almost every person I see walking around the College of Charleston campus uses the reusable water bottles. However, bottled water here is more popular. The American College of Greece speaker said that they gave away some free reusable water bottles and the more people that began to use them the more people that wanted them. However, ACG forgot about the fact that if you want more people to use the water bottles, you need water refill stations. Since the introduction of the stations, reusable water bottles are very popular on the campus.
My favorite class so far was listening to the United States Embassies presentation. I found it fascinating learning about the job of being a diplomat, a career I had never thought about before. The speaker seemed very passionate about her work and I found it kind of funny how much her job can range in a day from negotiating fried chicken to working with the president of the United States. I also felt as though her presentation was genuine and it seemed like she actually enjoyed her work and what she does everyday. I also thought how cool it is that every few years she can change to a different country if she would like and begin new work there. However, it does seem a little scary to uproot yourself and not even know where you may live next. Like she explained she was in Thailand at first, a place very different in infrastructure than Greece.
Overall, I really enjoyed both presentations and I though they were very informative, inspiring, and interesting!
This past week we had four guest speakers, one from the ACG office of Sustainability and three from the US Embassy. Guest speakers are such a great way to relate our class topics to the real world. Both events were very informative, however dramatically different topics of conversation. I think we can all agree that there were so many take-aways.
ACG Office of Sustainability: Rania Assariotaki came in to speak with us from the ACG office of sustainability. Rania Assariotaki is the Senior Manager of Sustainability, and she shared with us how the ACG does their part to support a greener future. She shared all of the activities the students take part in to contribute to a greener campus, future and community. The ACG campus recently won an award for being one of the greenest campuses, which is tough to achieve. I do not think universities in the United States are making as much of an effort. The more we discuss green supply chain management and hear about the changes other countries make, only makes me want to do more to live a less wasteful lifestyle back home. It was also engaging and exciting that Rania handed out bamboo cutlery from her program.
US Embassy: The speakers that came from the US Embassy were my favorite out of all of the tour guides and speakers of this trip. I just found it so interesting that as a diplomat representing the United States in Greece they take care of everything from important negotiations to what chicken KFC sells. Yuri Arthur was the woman that led the conversation, she is originally from the United States and has worked through various positions in the government. Although I am a marketing major she did convince me the government could be an interesting place to work with lots to expand my knowledge on. I didn’t realize diplomats were considered so important, Yuri explained that everything is very planned and they travel in motorcades, etc. In response to a classmate’s question, her biggest advice was to make connections and go for it. She explained that your connections or ability to make connections is much greater while you’re still in college. People are more willing to give advice or become a mentor while you’re still a student, which I kind of knew of but it was important to hear. The most important resource at this point in time is our relationships.