This article originally appeared in our Circularity Weekly newsletter. Subscribe to the newsletter here.
During a recent visit to Los Angeles, I was preoccupied with thoughts about our species’ addiction to consumption. This was fueled by several sights and experiences: an uncharacteristic trip to the mall — an American vestige that has rebounded from its predicted death, and seems to be happily pumping out product once again — the untold cargo ships and boxes along Long Beach’s port whose transit has rebounded from COVID lockdowns and a visit to Disneyland, where nearly every experience is packaged and priced for the consumer.
Beyond the sights, sounds and smells of a 21st century American city, unsettling headlines also kept these thoughts swirling in my brain. In addition to my colleague’s call to prioritize reduction — I couldn’t help but pore over coverage investigating mountains of tossed fast fashion on Ghanaian shores, tons of difficult if not impossible-to-recycle plastics coming off this year’s Halloween candy and an exploding waste-stream of furniture that’s clogging our landfills.
In a world obsessed with selling (and buying) the new, shiny and fun, our ever expanding appetite for more is literally drowning us: More products, more options, more profit margins has led to more cheap, nearly-impossible-to-recycle products and packaging, tossed at an ever increasing clip.
Right now, the planet is bearing the brunt of overconsumption — or perhaps more importantly, overproduction.
In spite of innovations and exceptional efforts — by both committed companies and eco-conscious consumers — trends suggest we continue to consume more and more each year. Something has to give. And right now, the planet is bearing the brunt of overconsumption — or perhaps more importantly, overproduction.
As I often preach from my soap box, circularity has the power to shift this paradigm: Durable, repairable, and modular design decisions can produce products that are long-lasting, rather than short-lived; new business models can decouple production from profit; investment in infrastructure can turn our waste streams into valuable assets. And yet — with a world that is less than 9 percent circular — the circular economy is by no means living up to this potentially-planet-saving power.
And so, with overconsumption and overproduction on the brain, I’ve been ruminating on some hard questions that require nuanced and complex answers:
In short — how do we truly accelerate the transition to a circular economy?
I’ll be pondering these thoughts as I build the program for Circularity 23, the leading convening of professionals building the circular economy in June. It’s my hope you’re thinking about — and working to answer — these questions too.
If you have solutions or a fresh perspective on the above quandaries, I invite you to submit a speaker nomination. Our nomination portal will be open through Jan. 9, but as speaking slots fill up fast I encourage you to submit as soon as you’re able. You can also subscribe to event updates here.
I can’t wait to see what ideas you have in store as we take on the hard questions this moment demands. And I can’t wait to see you at Circularity 23 (June 5-7 in Seattle) Until then, I hope you keep asking those hard questions with me.