Locally focused circular economies restitch the broken threads of community and creates safer, connected and more environmentally aware places in which to live and work. Healthy local economies re-use materials, share or exchange goods and services, offer fresh, nutritious foods, minimise waste and emissions, provide support to those who need it, and prioritise care and connection over capital. Localised economies are also diverse. They are nimble and versatile, and as a result, are more resilient to the future climate shocks or pandemics that await us.
Why do we need to do this?
Over the past 30 years, our economic system has rapidly moved away from the local and prioritised the global. Subsidies and tax breaks have allowed the expansion of large, monolithic corporations. This has led to monocultures of food, media, medicine, and social platforms where a handful of companies own and control the majority of the things we consume and engage with.
This has brought obvious benefits, but it has also increased emissions, generated huge amounts of waste, relocated jobs, increased disease and mental health, driven income inequality and turbo charged our consumption, which has directly caused ecological degradation. We are already using twice the materials that the earth can replenish in a year, yet our economy is on track to double in size by 2041, and be seven times bigger by 2100. Rebuilding the small and local is one of the most important regenerative pathways we need to take.
LOCAL - a story of hope
How are others approaching this?
There are many ways that people around the world are creating circular local economies. Below is a small sample. If you have any further examples that you think should be on this list, please email XXX.
Localisation is often attributed to food and there is no doubt that the benefits to human health, community bonds and the environment, increase exponentially when food is localised. But localisation also applies to a range of other goods and services.
Communities are setting up ‘libraries of things’ where people can rent or exchange goods like lawnmowers, waffle makers or toys. Other groups hold ‘repair days’ where people come together to repair items instead of throwing them away. Austin, Texas has its own community owned ride share service and Transition Towns now involve thousands of people across the world who are re-localising their economies. All of these initiatives keep money in the community and strengthen the connections between its residents.
Humans are currently using twice as many resources that the earth can replenish in a year. We are on track to use three times more by 2050. We are going to have to start re-using our materials.
Japan was a country short on metals so they decided to make it illegal to throw away items with metal in them. They then created a re-manufacturing industry that created new jobs by turning the old metals into new metals. Japan now recycles 98% of their metals. The rest of the world is going to have to follow plus do the same with plastics, food, wood and other materials that often end up in landfill. Circular economies are good for people and the planet.
Donut Economics is a model proposed by the English economist Kate Raworth based on the Planetary Boundaries framework from the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Donut Economics assesses societal progress by how it is adhering to its social and ecological boundaries.
A society is thriving when it is in the middle or ‘safe space’ of the donut but starts to break down when the boundaries of the donut are breached. It is a model based on circular and regenerative principles and many see Donut Economics as a viable transition away from our extractive, exponential growth based system.
15 minute cities
Imagine a city where everything you needed could be found within a fifteen-minute walk or bike ride from your home, including fresh food, healthcare, schools, offices, shops, parks, gyms, banks, and entertainment. The paths to get there are safe, tree-shaded, car free neighbourhoods where people can get to know each other. It’s called the fifteen-minute city and its not imaginary.
The Paris mayor has implemented this ambitious plan and it’s underway. Cities in the US, Spain, China and Australia are also taking the concept on board. As the age of the car fades, cities are being redesigned to serve their residents, discovering how much healthier, vibrant, and resilient they can be.
Regenerative actions for you to implement
We believe every one of us has a role to play in Regeneration. If you are interested in getting involved, here are some actions we have identified that you could implement in your life.