Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020

Why Are Landfills Significant Sources of Global Methane Emissions?

Landfills around the world contribute to an estimated eleven percent (11%) of all global methane emissions, with methane being a climate amplifier and up to 25 times stronger than CO2 (carbon dioxide) as a greenhouse gas on a longer term. In the first decades of being emitted into Earth’s atmosphere, methane is more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, causing it to actually warm Earth’s climate more than carbon dioxide. 

The fact that landfills are such a large source of anthropogenic methane emissions on a global scale suggests that there is a need and potential to a) reduce the amount of overall waste b) improved waste management practices, including recycling and transforming waste into energy. Recycling and energy production from waste of course have to be in line with national policies, whereby communities and governments are responsible for creating and maintaining sustainable waste management policies and procedures, allowing for completely new kinds of businesses to emerge and to thrive in a world where waste can today be regarded as a currency.

While some countries have decided to completely ban plastic bags in order to reduce plastic waste and it ending up especially in our oceans, for instance in Finland plastic recycling was not set up until 2016. Today, around one fifth (20%) of all plastic waste in Finland is being recycled, with a target of increasing the amount of recycled plastic within the upcoming few years. 

I first ran into Plastic Bank on Twitter a few years ago. Plastic Bank is an organization dedicated to stopping ocean plastic ending up in our oceans by turning waste into currency, killing two birds with one stone by contributing both to ending poverty and preventing harmful plastic waste ending up in our oceans. 

Of course, plastic is not the only kind of waste on our planet, but it is one of the worst: it can take up to one thousand (1.000) years for plastic bottles to biodegrade, with the average time being 450 years. Think about that before throwing plastic garbage (or, any garbage at all) into the nature!

The average decomposition rates of debris/garbage varies largely: glass bottles thrown into water sources or nature in general is undefined, or can take up to one million (1.000.000) years to decompose, followed by fishing lines (600 years), plastic beverage bottles (450 years), disposable diapers (450 years), aluminium cans (up to 200 years), foamed plastic buoys (80 years), foamed plastic cups (50 years), rubber-boot soles (up to 80 years), tin cans (50 years), leather (50 years), nylon fabric (up to 40 years), plastic bags (up to 20 years), cigarette butts (up to five years), wool socks (up to five years), and plywood (up to three years). (NOAA Marine Debris Program 2019; U.S. National Park Service 2019). It is estimated that more than eight million tons of plastic end up in our oceans alone each year, and cleaning all the waste from our oceans is not as simple as from elsewhere in our environment. 

Nevertheless, The Ocean CleanUp is an ambitious project determined to clean up our world’s oceans from all the waste through advanced technologies. It will definitely be exciting to see how this demanding project turns out.

The World Bank estimates that urban solid waste will increase by 70% by 2025, from some 1.3 billion tonnes currently to 2.2 billion tonnes by 2025, increasing the global costs of waste (management) significantly. This huge increase in overall waste worldwide does include a number of risks, both for health and the environment, but it also gives us the opportunity to create and develop improved waste management practices, recycling, and an effort to create better solutions for instance in terms of packaging materials and overall design.

The complete report published by The World Bank in March 2012, “What a Waste – A Global Review of Solid Waste Management” can be downloaded here. In brief, the report highlights key issues such as municipal solid waste management being the most important service any city provides, with poorly managed waste having immense impacts on health, the environment overall, and the economy. It identifies non-sustainable development including water and wastewater (treatment), greenhouse gas emissions, poverty and slums, social unrest, air pollution, and solid waste. Landfilling in low-income countries/low-technology sites, according to the report, is usually open dumping of wastes, leading to high pollution in nearby aquifers and water bodies, waste regularly being burned, with significant health consequences for local residents and staff. 

High-income OECD countries alone account for almost half (44-46%) of total worldwide waste generation, with high-income OECD countries also having the highest waste collection rates. What ends up in landfills worldwide has large impacts on our environment, as a result of which advanced recycling and waste management are significant factors for minimizing both environmental and health concerns.

Learn more by watching “Landfill Methane Emissions and Oxidation”, published by Illinois Sustainable Technology Center:

What conclusions can we draw from this? 

  • Your consumption habits matter and have an impact! Demand better products, and reduce your amount of waste. 
  • Packaging materials make a significant difference. Businesses/producers/retailers and consumers can influence what kinds of packaging materials are being used. 
  • With a constantly growing world population, it is essential to start limiting the amount of waste produced per capita in different countries. Otherwise, one option would be to charge for any additional waste through either waste collection costs per household/business or higher taxation on non-environmentally friendly packaging materials/products.
  • Improved recycling and overall waste management practices around the world. 

What else can you think of? Please share your ideas and thoughts by commenting on this article! You may also want to read my previous article “How Environmentally Friendly Is Biomass Production?” to find out more about how waste is being managed in for instance a country like Sweden. Today, we do have similar waste management practices in Finland as well. 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Leading With Passion to receive my latest posts.

 

 

 

 

 

Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020

How Environmentally Friendly is Biomass Production?

Biomass production, which is classified as a renewable source of energy, today accounts for 10.5% of the world’s total energy mix. Biomass is a term covering all non-fossil organic material and organic waste, such as forestry and agricultural residues, both from animal and non-animal farming, but also garbage and sewage sludge. With some concerns about biomass production on land replacing food production, this is an exception to the rule. Biomass is usually residue, waste or a by-product. Only biofuel production is known to utilize ethanol from corn: wheat, corn or sugar-beet. (Eurostat 2017; REN21 2017; Victoria State Government 2017; World Energy Council 2016).

According to the World Energy Council (2016), straw as a residue from food production is an example of biomass. Each year, billions of tons of straw, stalk, and foliage remain unused for biomass production. Instead, these are either allowed to rotten or burned freely, emitting considerable amounts of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere. All of this organic waste, when correctly processed, could instead be utilized as a source of bio energy.

Biomass as a source of energy production is supported by policies in many countries despite of ongoing discussion about the sustainability of certain bioenergy sources. This has led to uncertainties in some markets and affected the willingness to invest into bioenergy. Due to these risk factors, the bioenergy sector has adopted a number of standards, Sustainability Criteria for Bioenergy, known as ISO 13065. In 2016, primary energy supply for biomass was around 62.5 exajoules (one EJ = 1018 J; one J per second = one watt). While worldwide energy demand in the past decade alone has grown by 21%, bioenergy demand has within the same time frame, on average, grown by 2.5% annually and persistently held its 10.5% share of the total worldwide energy mix. (ECOS 2017; REN21 2017).

In its Global Futures Report 2017 the REN21 states that while biofuels have most commonly replaced fossil fuels in the transport sector, it is not the only technology available. Electric vehicles are another option, with markets such as Norway pioneering the electric vehicle industry. It is largely a question of national policies and new investments into research and development that determine how well various fossil fuel-replacing options can penetrate into a specific market. A world powered with 100% renewable energy is possible, although current infrastructures limit and slow down the pace of renewables replacing fossil fuels, mainly due to socio-economic impacts. (REN21 2017).

Greenhouse gas mitigation and carbon taxes are the main drivers for developing the bioenergy market, while drastically dropping oil prices in the past few years have both led to advancements and increased risks for the overall bioenergy market. In markets with zero competition from the fossil fuel industry, such as Sweden, bioenergy has gained significant foothold. Sweden ́s pioneering development within the bioenergy sector has led to the fact that more than one-third of the country’s total energy use comes from bioenergy. Sweden is so efficient with bioenergy usage and recycling that the country has to import waste to meet its energy demand. The country aims at becoming 100% renewable in terms of energy. (World Energy Council 2016).

In comparison to for instance solar energy and wind energy, bioenergy production consumes considerable amounts of water, requires large areas of land and forests, possibly contributing to increased deforestation, unless managed sustainably. Despite risks like deforestation, countries like Sweden and Finland are known to manage their forest resources in a sustainable manner on a global level, following the directives set by the European Union. (EUbioenergy 2017; European Commission/EU 2017; World Energy Council 2016).

Learn more about the topic by watching U.S. Department of Energy ́s video “Energy 101 | Biofuels”:

Although biomass is being classified as a renewable energy source, it accounts for some  3% (three per cent) of total global methane emissions (with methane being a powerful greenhouse gas and anthropogenic methane emissions contributing to the warming of Earth’s climate). According to Vattenfall, which is one of the largest European retailers for electricity and fully owned (100%) by the Swedish state, biomass is at this time the largest single renewable energy source in the European Union.

Biomass and waste currently account for 2/3 (two-thirds) of renewable energy production worldwide, stated by Vattenfall. The state of Sweden has learned how to utilize waste to such an extent that it today is obliged to IMPORT waste in order to keep up with its (biomass) energy production. What a genius idea to turn waste into energy! Of course, the most optimal solution would be not to create any waste at all, but at the current state of the world, many countries are facing problems with for instance recycling, not to mention how these countries manage waste. Why destroy the environment and our soils by dumping all kinds of waste to landfills without any recycling, when there are much better options, such as biomass production and recycling available? If Sweden can do it, why not other countries as well? 

These questions are very important in terms of both environmental and human well-being. Moreover, recycling, waste management, human health, animal health, planetary health, and the creation of sustainable business models can be lucrative income sources for businesses in societies around the globe, while improving the state of the planet. Biomass can of course not be created from any kind of waste. Today, biomass is being created and used mainly in countries focused on forest industries and agriculture, whereby waste from these can be utilized to produce biomass energy from (renewable) sources.

Although biomass is today regarded to be a renewable energy source, and definitely more environmentally friendly than the burning of and production of fossil fuels coal, gas and oil, the production of biomass involves both agriculture and forestry. If other renewable source of energy are at hand, there should be no need to excessively cut down forests or grow crops in order to produce biomass, if and when there are more environmentally friendly options available.

It is estimated that the demand for biomass will at least double in the upcoming decades, with scenarios up to 2050. According to the World Energy Council’s report World Energy Resources – Bioenergy | 2016, bioenergy currently accounts for one tenth of global energy supply, with biofuels being a sustainable option in the replacement of oil dependency. Moreover, with growing concerns for environmental well-being even in terms of biomass production, bioenergy is framed by sustainability standards such as ISO, only to mention one of many. The World Energy Council states that the use of waste and residues as raw material to produce bioenergy is most optimal.

Following video, “What is Biomass”, published by FairEnergy, briefly explains what biomass (production) is:

 

Thank you for reading and commenting! 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to https://www.annemariayritys.com to receive my latest posts.

 

 

Old aluminium can

Why is Recycling Important?

Finding museum waste in the forest devastates me. This aluminium can is from a time period when Finland was not yet a member of EMU and did not have the Euro € as a currency, but the Finnish mark.

Finland has been a euro country since 1.1.2002 so this aluminium can has most probably been in the forest for more than 17 years now. I found it in a local forest today.

With a recycling fee on aluminium cans + glass and plastic bottles, it should not be such a hard task to actually recycle. Or, throw waste into a waste bin instead of dumping it in nature.

Aluminium, other metals, glass or plastic is NOT biodegradable materials.

The level of stupidity among human beings does not cease to amaze me.

#recycling #dontthrowyourwasteintonature #environmentaldamage #wastemanagement

 

Chanterelle Season. Anne-Maria Yritys 2018.

What is The Climate Impact of Food Production and Agriculture?

When I first started to replace specific meat products in my regular diet many years ago, my decision was not based upon the impact of food (and meat) on the environment or the fact that the production of specific products (such as cheese and beef in particular) have a far greater impact on our environment than many other options of food that can replace an excessive consumption of food products with a heavier CO2 footprint. I moved away from using certain meat products due to the fact that I thought these would be healthier options, such as using textured soy protein granules instead of minced meat when cooking at home. As opposed to minced meat, the consistency of soy protein granules is far less fatty (0,8g fat/100g) and includes much more proteins (53g/100g).

It has been delightful to notice how the out-of-home and retail food markets for instance in Finland have developed in recent years, with more and more vegetarian or even vegan product launches from traditional “meat brands”. While meat consumption per capita in Finland and in Europe is still very high (Eurostat 2019), meat consumption per capita is slowly decreasing although the European Commission forecasts a growing world demand for meat by 2025 while at the same time seeing a slight decline in the GHG´s  (greenhouse gas emissions) caused by meat production and consumption in the EU.

According to both EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in the USA and the EC (European Commission) in Europe, agriculture alone accounts for between 9-10% of all global greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide CO2 and methane CH4, whereas industry, electricity and transportation today all account for between 20-30% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Although agriculture alone accounts for “only” around one tenth of all global greenhouse gas emissions as per today, it is a fact that industrial agriculture and animal farming require both electricity and transportation in addition to the fact that industrial agriculture/farming with poor land, waste and water management practices in reality cause far more harm to our environment leading to changes in not only landscapes around the world but also impoverishment and erosion of soils.

This is a far too complex issue to be addressed in one article, although an idealist could state that in an ideal (utopian) world we should all be growing our own food on small plots of land and give up the idea of any commercial food production or industrialized agriculture and farming. People would consume increasingly much fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and less (or zero) animal products, including any dairy or meat.

With a growing number of vegetarians and vegans around the world and many developed countries focusing upon a growth of overall food consumption from close food production (i.e. a food chain whereby the food has been produced locally), urban farming and other ideological attempts to reduce one´s carbon footprint (or, more precisely: greenhouse gas footprint since carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas) through eating habits, this ideology of a utopia has become a reality for consumers who know better and who try to save the world or perhaps themselves through better choices both in terms of personal health, the well-being of animals and the well-being of our environment.

However naive idealists may be in their attempts of saving a collapsing world or a collapsing environment, it is a fact that our current way of living on this planet is unsustainable. People in developed countries are consuming at a rate where we would need at least three or more planet Earth´s although we actually live on the only planet of this capacity in our entire galaxy, and no one has yet managed to find another planet in the entire Universe where all of humanity can pack their bags and move if and when we manage to destroy our current ecosystem, a good and realistic possibility and a vision in the upcoming few decades if we keep destroying our home planet at this rate.

 

There is no Planet B.

If you are unsure about what actions you can take in terms of protecting the environment and our only home planet, start by searching “carbon footprint calculator” on the Internet. I would rename all existing carbon footprint calculators to “greenhouse gas emission footprint calculators” due to the somewhat misleading name, since carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas that has a negative impact on our environment, causing us humans to change the Earth´s climate through the greenhouse effect, where all greenhouse gas emissions combined form an artificial greenhouse that is year by year warming the Earth´s atmosphere unless we manage to stop or even reverse this development and which is the reason behind the Paris Agreement from 2015.

One very simple way of individual climate and environment action is to start eating and consuming for instance food products in a wiser manner. Cut down on (red) meat consumption, and cut down your overall consumption of dairy products. Eat more locally produced food. Eat at least half a kilogram of fruits and vegetables every day (good for your personal health too). Replace some of your meat consumption with vegetarian or vegan alternatives. Eat a handful of nuts or seeds (unless you have an allergy of course) on a daily basis. Do not throw away food or if you do, please see if you can place it in the biodegradable waste. Improve your overall recycling habits. If recycling in your home city/country is at a poor or non-existing level, do something about it! There are many business opportunities involved within for instance the recycling sector, such as using certain waste materials to produce energy and heat.

Anne-Maria Yritys 16.2.2019.

All rights reserved.

 

How Ecological is Your Food?

 

No one should be able to afford throwing food away but if you do, please remember to sort it separately as BIODEGRADABLE WASTE. Recycling is a MUST for all of us these days.

 

Throwing away food in a world where millions of people starve each year is a matter of poor choices and ignorance rather than a lack of food worldwide. With more than 7 billion inhabitants on our planet today, food for at least 10 billion people is produced, much of which is being thrown away.

 

Biowaste when ending up in landfills, unprocessed, causes methane emissions which in turn cause climate change and is a greenhouse gas at least 30 times as powerful as carbon dioxide (CO2) in the short run.

 

The Finnish Church in Tampere is setting an example by organizing free-of-charge ECOLOGICAL BRUNCHES from surplus/residue food products that have remained unsold by local supermarkets.

 

Today for instance oven-baked salmon, graved whitefish and many vegetarian/vegan dishes were served to citizens. Unless the church would arrange these ecological brunches, all of this food would most probably have been thrown away.

 

#ecobrunch #surplusfood #povertyreduction #climatechange #recycling #biowaste #foodsafety #socialresponsibility #churchinfinland #foodbanks #CSR

 

 

 

Anne-Maria Yritys July 2018

What Kind of a Consumer Are You?

You don´t always have to buy clothes. You can receive clothes as gifts, through recycling or just find clothes outdoors, in nature; earlier this year, I found a pair of sports shorts outdoors, which still had a price tag on them. Today, I found a pair of Regatta´s Pack It black outdoor trousers, perfectly suitable. Now I´ll just wash them and use them.
 
I have also found sunglasses, cycling glasses, torches and cash (money) outdoors this year. Is there something our environment wants to tell me by sending me all these free gifts?
 
At least it is highly recommended to keep both your eyes and your other senses open while outdoors, as you never know what you will encounter or find.
 
Recycling is no longer a trend, but a necessity for all human beings.
 
Our Earth can no longer take human greed and a desire for overconsumption of poor-quality goods. The global garment industry is one of the worst environmental polluters beside agriculture and fossil fuels.
 
Therefore, it is highly recommended to consider what kinds of textiles to use, and whether you always have to buy first hand instead of buying second hand clothes. Or, does one´s closet have to be full of unnecessary clothes when one can live with less than? There is nothing worse than people buying poor-quality clothes and textiles, especially when most of these dust in the closet and go unused. Or, when textiles are being thrown away instead of being recycled.
 
For instance H&M has for a long time already been recycling textiles and clothes, and it is possible to recycle usable clothes e.g. through UFF unless one wants to try to sell them second hand.
 
Anne-Maria Yritys 16.11.2018
============================
 
Vaatteita ei välttämättä tarvitse aina ostaa. Niitä voi saada joko lahjaksi, kierrätyksen kautta tai sitten löytää ulkoa luonnosta: kesällä löysin ulkoa yhdet juuri sopivat urheilushortsit, täysin käyttämättömät (hintalappu oli vielä kiinni). Tänään löysin ulkona kävellessäni Regattan Pack It vedenpitävät, mustat ulkoiluhousut, pakattuina vedenpitävään kangaspussukkaan. Nekin istuvat juuri sopivasti. Ei muuta kuin pesukoneen kautta käyttöön 🙂
 
Olen tänä vuonna löytänyt ulkoa myös yhdet aurinkolasit ja yhdet ajolasit/pyöräilylasit, pari toimivaa taskulamppua, käteistä rahaa ym.
 
Yrittääköhän ympäristö viestittää minulle jotain, antaen minulle lahjaksi käyttämättömiä ja juuri sopivasti istuvia vaatteita?
 
Ainakin kannattaa pitää silmät auki ja muutkin aistit avoinna ulkona liikkuessaan, ikinä kun ei tiedä mitä siellä tulee vastaan. 🙂
 
Kierrätys ei enää tänä päivänä ole trendi, vaan välttämättömyys kaikille ihmisille.
 
Maapallomme ei kestä ihmisten ahneutta ja kulutushysteriaa, tai huonolaatuisia tuotteita. Vaateteollisuus on yksi pahimmista ympäristön saastuttajista maatalouden ja fossiilisten polttoaineiden lisäksi.
 
Kannattaa siis miettiä millaisia tekstiilejä käyttää ja tarvitseeko aina ostaa uutta, vai voisiko löytää hyvälaatuisia vaatteita myös kierrätettyinä. Tai pitääkö vaatekaapin olla pullollaan kun vähempikin riittäisi. Kaikista pahinta on kaiketi, kun ihmiset ostavat huonolaatuisia vaatteita, joita kaappi on pullollaan ja kun ne kaiken lisäksi jäävät käyttämättä. Tai kun heitetään roskiin tekstiilejä.
 
Esim. H&M on jo pitkään ottanut vastaan kierrätystekstiilejä ja vaatteita + käyttökelpoisia vaatteita voi viedä esim. UFF:n keräykseen ellei niitä halua tai jaksa yrittää myydä kirpparilla.
 
Anne-Maria Yritys 16.11.2018

How Can You Become A Better Consumer?

You don’t always have to buy clothes. You can receive clothes as gifts, through recycling or just find clothes outdoors, in nature; earlier this year, I found a pair of sports shorts outdoors, which still had a price tag on them. Today, I found a pair of Regatta ́s Pack It black outdoor trousers, perfectly suitable. Now I ́ll just wash them and use them.

 

I have also found sunglasses, cycling glasses, torches and cash (money) outdoors this year. Is there something our environment wants to tell me by sending me all these free gifts?

 

At least it is highly recommended to keep both your eyes and your other senses open while outdoors, as you never know what you will encounter or find.

 

Recycling is no longer a trend, but a necessity for all human beings.

 

Our Earth can no longer take human greed and a desire for overconsumption of poor-quality goods. The global garment industry is one of the worst environmental polluters beside agriculture and fossil fuels.

 

Therefore, it is highly recommended to consider what kinds of textiles to use, and whether you always have to buy first hand instead of buying second hand clothes. Or, does one ́s closet have to be full of unnecessary clothes when one can live with less than? There is nothing worse than people buying poor-quality clothes and textiles, especially when most of these dust in the closet and go unused. Or, when textiles are being thrown away instead of being recycled.

 

For instance H&M has for a long time already been recycling textiles and clothes, and it is possible to recycle usable clothes e.g. through UFF unless one wants to try to sell them second hand.

 

 

 

Why Are You Throwing Your Waste into the Environment?

I currently live in Finland, which is one of the world´s most sparsely inhabited countries with a total population of 5.5 million. Finland is a country that can be proud of many things, including how for instance wastewater is being managed; purified and treated. Finland is actually one of the few countries in the world that does treat wastewater before dumping it back into the environment: the reason why Finnish tap water is clean and safe to drink.

Finland is also a country where recycling works very well: according to Statistics Finland, only around 10% of all municipal waste ends up in landfills. This is thanks to efficient recycling and waste recovery, for instance in the form of energy production. Finland now even has a National Waste Plan – towards a recycling society.

Dumping hazardous waste into the environment is an environmental crime in Finland. Learn more about the definition of environmental crimes here. Nonetheless and despite of well-organized recycling and waste management practices in the country, a part of the population seems to think that throwing garbage and waste into the environment is normal human behavior.

I am personally, as one of the world’s most networked female leaders and women (on social media), cleaning up at least 15 pieces of plastic and waste from the environment, 365 days a year. Waste thrown into our environment by children, teens and adults who do not know better than to harm the environment and to waste other people’s efforts and time.

No one pays me for cleaning up. I do it on a voluntary basis, because I feel ashamed for how stupid people pollute and damage our environment. If I can afford to spend my time cleaning up the environment after PIGS, you can do the same. At least do not throw your shit into the nature so I (and other people) do not have to clean up after you.

There are actually a number of movements and projects around the world to clean up for instance ocean plastic and ocean trash, an example of which is The Ocean Cleanup. In addition to similar large-scale projects, a number of grassroot activists such as PADI divers have a habit of cleaning up both beaches and seas on diving trips. Why not do the same on land, in forests and in cities?

The harsh truth is: if ALL people were smart enough not to dump their waste into the environment, we would not need to clean up after ignorant human beings. There are even countries such as Singapore, where throwing any waste into the environment is forbidden. Why not impose similar legislation around the world, just to ensure that we do not soon drown in garbage such as plastic on this planet?

 

 

How Can Circular Economies Protect The Earth From Destruction?

Our world is literally drowning in GARBAGE. Or, to express it with more elegance: our planet is overburdened with the consumption of human beings: Garbage, litter, waste, pollution, toxins, and chemicals. Although the annual growth rate of world population is slightly decreasing, it is expected to reach 9.2 billion by 2050, and 11.2 billion by 2100, from the roughly 7.6 billion in 2017, 4.4 billion in 1980, three (3) billion in 1960, and 1.65 billion in the early 20th century. 

Our consumption habits are overloading Earth. According to calculations, citizens in many countries consume at a rate that is unbearable for our planet and its ecosystem. The WWF states that the average ecological footprint for instance in Sweden suggests that we would need 3.8 Earths to accommodate the current level of consumption. The countries with the largest ecological footprint per person are Kuwait, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, United States of America, Canada, Sweden, Bahrain, Trinidad and Tobago, and Singapore. However, it is not as simple as that – some countries “export” their ecological footprints to others, but ultimately it all comes back to us. We cannot afford to continue exporting our national environmental problems to other countries. 

How can circular economies help us protect our planet from further damage and perhaps even complete destruction? We have already managed to cause perhaps irreversible damage to our Earth within the past century alone, through improper management of natural resources, insufficient waste management and recycling practices, air, soil and water pollution through industrial activities, causing anthropogenic climate change through excess greenhouse gas emissions into Earth’s atmosphere, which end up polluting our environment, animals and ourselves as a species. Majority of wastewater worldwide ends up back in our environment without any treatment or purification, leading to extreme pollution and toxins both in our air, land, and water sources.

It is uncertain whether we can save ourselves and our planet from more environmental damage. However, creating and maintaining circular economies where damage to the environment and all that lives on this planet can be minimized with an increasingly much efficient usage of natural resources, including the improvement of energy efficiency, better wastewater management, increased recycling, and the reduction of harmful and toxic (greenhouse gas) emissions is already known to be beneficial and reduces costs in all areas of life. As with any other activity, legislation and policies play a significant role in how we shape our economies and create our future on this planet.

For instance the European Union has its own Circular Economy Strategy, a virtual open space platform which facilitates policy dialogue and offers both information and good practices for economies (within the EU) to take action in terms of the creation and improvement of a circular economy. According to SITRA, the Finnish innovation fund, we have a better way of capitalism, a new increasingly much sustainable era where our economies have to be rethought and reshaped. The Finnish innovation fund SITRA has been nominated for the world ́s premier circular economy award, and leading for instance a project upon circular economies. Access the full report, SITRA – Leading the cycle – Finnish road map to a circular economy 2016-2025, HERE.

A circular economy is one that not only creates and designs improved and (more) sustainable brands, consumer goods, and services, but takes into consideration the ecological footprint of the complete product life-cycle from design/ manufacture, throughout the supply chain from retailer to consumer, and back to the recycling and/or re-use of materials. It also includes innovating completely new methods and materials for improved manufacturing and production.

How this can and will be done has to be considered not only by support from both legislation and policies, but also through innovation and management practices in companies. Innovation and improvement can be supported for instance by using common sense, questioning current ways of doing things, evaluating business processes, and minimizing/ eliminating useless waste through the implementation of best practices, and utilizing methodologies such as kaizen, lean (manufacturing) and/or six sigma, or a combination of these.

Learn more about circular economies by watching European Environment Agency ́s video “Circular Economy”:

What are you doing in your everyday life as a consumer to help protect the environment? 

What measures have you taken in your business activities to reduce your greenhouse gas (carbon) footprint? 

Feel free to comment on this article. 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Yritys Executive Services to receive my latest posts.