“The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything”
One of the main reasons that I originally got into the zero waste movement and this whole circularity saga, even as an environmentalist, was because of my deep-seeded love for upcycling and turning trash into art. In some of my earlier chapters of my book, An Economic Eclipse: Shifting Toward a Sustainable Future by Eliminating Waste, I discuss that since my pre-teen years I have had a fascination for cutting up and refurbishing clothes. This passion of mine, which emulates zero-waste fashion practices, seeped its way into other creative projects, such as my personalized room decor:
“My bedroom is what some might call a hermit’s dream. I prefer to think of it as a ‘part of Ariel’s world,’ filled with whozits and whatzits galore. My desk is a rainbow collage of old cereal box logos, newspapers, birthday cards, and colorful scraps I’ve carefully pieced and glued together to form a cohesive vintage-esque art piece. Fake flowers dispersed throughout the room are cradled in old Harney & Sons tea tins. My decor even includes an old Soap & Glory gift set box which perfectly complements my aesthetic. Sure, these decorations are not very conventional (most people may prefer to secure their waste-free decorations from a thrift store rather than their trash bin), but the creative liberty I relished while upcycling this space was extremely empowering. Not to mention, in my humble opinion, the end piece is nothing short of an HGTV ad.”
Surely, my endearing childhood art projects may seem insignificant in the grand landscape of the global economy, but it turns out that these two things have more in common than you might think.
While there are numerous arguments for why a circular economy is beneficial for financial and environmental stability, it is also a haven for creative inspiration and a gold mine for unique sustainable design. As the saying goes, we can’t solve problems by using the same thinking that caused them. In other words, we need to completely reimagine our current production and consumption systems in a way that supports our waste reduction and climate change goals, just as I completely reimagined the meaning of “room decor” as an adventurous teenager.
One of the most compelling stories from this chapter exhibiting such an outside-the-box mentality comes from Kate Raworth, the inventor of doughnut economics. Raworth has a profound perspective to share on the concept of boundaries, whereby:
“she attributes the property of constraint to extract ‘creativity, participation, belonging, and meaning’ from some of the most ingenious people, including Jimi Hendrix, Serena Williams, and Mozart. Jimi Hendrix had only six strings. Serena Williams is restricted to bounds on a tennis court. Mozart’s sheet music had a fixed number of lines and notes.”
Without boundaries, these extraordinary individuals could not have realized their monumental potential. Albeit they were physical boundaries in most cases, but the rules of the game remain the same — no matter the “type” of boundary. As a result of her belief in the power of constraint, Raworth took it upon herself to completely re-imagine and re-model the entire global economy. This sizable endeavor landed her recognition by the UN Development Programme and an economic model that closely resembles a doughnut. This chapter, “Tipping the Scales,” describes what exactly the doughnut is, what its parameters are, and what it means in the context of the global economy.
Besides ideological novelty and innovative thought leadership like that of Raworth, environmental entrepreneurs and artists have also thrived on the creative challenges prompted by circularity. Some companies evidencing this include:
Orange Fiber: a Italian textile company using their sustainable development and fashion design expertise to combine two of Italy’s most prized commodities — citrus and clothing.
Greenhouse: an Australian restaurant and cafe producing absolutely zero waste, from their head-to-tail meat mantra to their sustainable seating made from old irrigation pipes.
Through and through, reducing waste requires massive amounts of creativity and a strong willingness to refute the status quo. As the chapter concludes,
“Reducing waste favors invention and creative expression. Whether that inspiration comes from the reciprocity of our global economy or the comfort of our own local villages, waste-reducing alternatives can be sought far and wide. By busting out our inner Andy Warhols and Michaelangelos we can find the beauty in trash to design a waste-free future.”
To read the full chapter and learn more, check out my book on Amazon!