An economy is a system for allocating available resources to meet people’s needs and wants. These needs and wants can be either products or services. The greater the need, the bigger the demand and the more a country or company needs to produce.
However, production can be limited to the availability of raw materials (materials needed to make the product) or a lack of people with the skills required to complete the tasks at hand.
Before we go deeper, let’s define the differences between a product and a service:
- Goods are physical objects that are bought and sold. They can include things like books, cars, electronics, food, and clothes.
- Services are actions that one person pays another for them to do. Services include things like medical care, education, gardening, hairdressing.
What are Natural Resources?
Natural resources are Earth materials used to support life and meet the needs of people. Since the dawn of time, humans have been using natural resources to improve their lives.
As mentioned before, products need raw materials to be converted into all the different things we buy. These raw materials come from natural resources, such as oil, coal, natural gas, metals, stone, wood, and sand.
Air, sunlight, soil, and water are considered renewable resources as they are replenished naturally by mother nature.
According to the UN’s latest projections, the global population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050. That means that we would need the equivalent of almost three planets to provide the natural resources required to sustain our current lifestyles.
Research indicates that a whooping 2 billion pairs of jeans are made every year. To make these jeans, manufacturers use 2million tones of chemicals, plus 2,630 liters of water (per pair of jeans made) and 1.4 million tones of raw cotton. Think about how many jeans you’ve owned in your lifetime and multiple that by all those litres of water.
That is quite a lot of water. Also, more water is used in the production of cotton crops and during the jean dye process. This is why we need to act now by encouraging circular economies, recycling, reusing and producing sustainable products.
“Less than 3 per cent of the world’s water is fresh (drinkable), of which 2.5 per cent is frozen in Antarctica, Arctic and glaciers. Humanity must therefore rely on 0.5 per cent for all of man’s ecosystem’s and fresh water needs.” United Nations, Goal 12 Targets.
What is a Circular Economy?
A circular economy is an alternative way to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose of). For example, a linear economy is when you buy a pair of jeans, you use them until they don’t fit anymore, and then you dispose of them in the garbage.
On the other hand, a circular economy encourages you to keep the goods for as long as possible and then use the 3R principle. Reuse, Repair, Recycle. The possibilities are endless, imagine all the things you can do with a pair of old jeans? A bag? A hat? A hair accessory? Use it to cover your books or as an improvised rocket?
Thankfully more and more brands are trying to integrate the circular economy philosophy into their buyer’s journey. The Make Fashion Circular initiative was launched in response to research that found that $460bn worldwide was lost each year to the underutilization of clothes. $100bn from clothing that could be used or reused was going straight into landfill and incineration instead. Therefore, Gap, H&M, Nike, Burberry HSBC, and Stella McCartney committed to creating business models to keep garments in use, utilizing renewable materials, and finding ways of recycling old clothes into new products.
For more information, you can visit https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/our-work/activities/make-fashion-circular/report
Thinking Cap On:
Now that you understand consumption and demand conduct your own market research with friends and family at home and find out a product they use often. Is it food, a piece of clothing, an electronic device?
Narrow it down to one product based on what gets the most votes.
Find out what natural or renewable resources are used to create that product. Do they have an environmental impact? Are there any sustainable substitutes you can offer your friends or family to try instead? If not, can you make a circular economy plan for that product?
Remember, the 3Rs Reuse, Repair, Recycle.
Sustainability means living our lives meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This can be translated into all areas of life. By living sustainably, we can help future generations enjoy the earth without compromising more damage to the environment.
- When possible, bring your own reusable water bottle to school, or camping or whenever you go out. This will prevent you from buying drinks in plastic containers or with plastic lids and straws. If this is not possible, then go for aluminum cans of drinks as these can be recycled indefinitely.
- Buy second-hand clothing, not only you can give clothes a second life but. You can find some amazing one of a kind vintage things! Be unique with your fashion sense while living a sustainable life.
- Read the labels. Make sure you understand the natural resources used in making the items to buy.
- Avoid waste of any kind, recycle what you can, reuse and repair and never leave anything behind. The less it goes into a landfill, the better.