Closing the Loop

This week was all about closing the loop. Not just the article we read about closing the loops in commerce, but also everything else we discussed can be related back to how we can close the loop in order to become more sustainable in business, in life, etc.

In the article, Closing the Loops in Commerce, Janine Benyus discusses the 10 tenants that organisms do in a mature ecosystem that humans/industries should apply to their own ecosystem that would allow us to close the loop. My learning community discussed tenant number one, use waste as a resource. In places like the forest, there is no such thing as waste. Waste = food in nature. Industries and humans in general produce so much waste and we do not do anything with it besides harm our environment. What I took away from this tenant is there really should be no such thing as waste. If we are able to use our waste as “food” just like the forest, why wouldn’t we? More industries and businesses need to team up in order to use each other’s “waste.” There needs to be more industries that are creating “food chains” with each other so they can take each other’s waste and use it as material, fuel, etc. in order to close the loop! Not only would this help the environment tremendously, but it would also save them so much money! So, WHY NOT? Companies can take the waste they are given instead of spending the money/time on an outside source to get something they really do not even need. In other words, they can do more with less, which can lead to another tenant we talked about, optimize rather than maximize. Consumers are always ready to throw away their perfectly good product in order to get the next new thing and companies work 24/7 to find and produce the next new thing for the consumers. What needs to happen is consumers and companies need to slow down and optimize the products they already have or already have produced. Consumers and companies should work together to get the most use out of a current product as possible rather than trashing a perfectly good product. Again, this would save both the company AND the consumer time and money. Companies need to create a stronger maintenance business for their products and tone it down on trying to produce the next new thing as possible. That way consumers would be more willing to bring in their current product in to get fixed, instead of creating more harmful waste, which would be another step in the cycle of closing the loop. Just like the growth on trees slows down in a forest when more of them are occupying the same space, leading to overall system stability, if we slow down in consumption and production, it could too lead to overall system stability. This tenant is very similar to the next tenant we talked about in class which is use materials sparingly. In nature, organisms do not overproduce or overbuild. They find a way to use what they have for multiple functions. If organisms can do that, why can’t we? We need to create products that can do multiple things a consumer wants instead of a million individual products that only do one function and end up getting thrown away.

What I learned from these tenants is that it is important to look at other ecosystems in nature in order to preserve our own. Mark Pawlyn understands the importance of this systems perspective sort of thinking and relates it to architecture. Pawlyn discovered three big changes that we need to make in order to keep up with the sustainability revolution and that is 1. Radical increases in resource efficiency 2. Shifting from a linear way of using resources to a closed loop model and 3. Changing from a fossil fuel economy to a solar economy, and he believes that all of the answers to these changes can be found in nature.

Nature also gives us design lessons that we can do as individuals that will help us close the loop. These six lessons are 1. Evolve to survive, 2. Be resource (material and energy) efficient 3. Adapt to changing conditions 4. Integrate development with growth 5. Be locally attuned and responsive and 6. Use life-friendly chemistry. I think one of the easiest principles that can be accomplished is the “be resource (material and energy) efficient,” yet many of us are not, including myself. Being in this class has made me think more about recycling, reusing and supporting and buying products of companies that do it, yet I still find myself struggling with it. I think the biggest problem is that I don’t think about it enough and therefore, I am not applying it enough to my daily life. I have noticed that when I do think about it, I become more aware of it and I will apply more sustainable applications to my life when it is fresh on the brain, but those thoughts do not seem to last long. I think talking about the C2C and C2G concepts definitely made me understand the process of recycling and reusing more, which will certainly help me in my journey to living a more sustainable life! I learned that recycling isn’t just throwing a can into the recycling bin, it’s the collection, separation, and reprocessing at the fiber/polymer/granule level. Recycling can be done by individuals, businesses, and even stores.

During the C2C activity, my learning community discussed ways we could design a store window display using recycled or reused materials. We mentioned the idea of having actual plants or even using solar panels in the display, which would be a unique and sustainable way to generate energy. We also talked about having the mannequins we used be made of recycled material as well as the clothing we put on them!

Anyone can contribute in the process of closing the loop, that includes businesses as well as individuals. The more people who are aware of the life principles that nature taught us, the more people will be willing to apply those principles, which will help close the loop!

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