© Earthly Gains Ltd 2017
Made with Xara
This page contains recent blog articles written by members of the Earthly Gains team or its associates.

Wasteful purchasing

by Martin Gibson

(first published Sep 22, 2016 on LinkedIn)

As you probably know, there is a lot of support for transforming our economy into one in which resources are kept in circulation for as long as possible, in other words, a circular economy. In such an economy, production and service systems are designed to maintain the value of resources through many product life cycles. At the moment most of our systems assume that we extract resources from the Earth, make something with them and then discard the thing we have made once we are finished with it. This approach is depleting resources and we are starting to be constrained by the limits of our planet. If everybody lived the way people in developed countries do, we would need about three planets in order to have a long-term, sustainable economy. So we need to change, and the sooner the change comes, the less disruptive and cheaper it will be. To move to the circular economy we need new systems and business models. These need to nurture resources rather than just treat them as a disposable and reducing asset. Most of us interact with the economy when we buy things. A resource efficient economy would need to ensure that consumers were able to minimise the resources associated with their purchases. Purchasing should encourage the choice of longevity of a product. One aspect of this is how easily consumables can be replenished. After all you wouldn’t want to throw away your printer every time the ink ran out, would you? Our current systems are very poor at nurturing resources, particularly for inexpensive items. I was struck by this when I went to buy two simple things yesterday: a roll of sticky tape and a refill for a ball point pen. I wanted more sticky tape for my tape dispenser. While many shops were happy to sell me a new dispenser with extra rolls of tape, I went into five shops before I found one that just sold the tape. The odd thing was that the tape alone cost about the same amount as the dispenser with spare tape. So apparently the value of the dispenser was negligible. The materials and energy that went into producing it gave no extra cost compared to just producing a roll of sticky tape. Also, if you buy the new dispenser and tape, your existing tape dispenser becomes effectively valueless and is probably thrown away. There is a cost of waste disposal but this is not factored into the purchase decision. How can our economic system put no value on a product that takes resources and energy to produce and dispose of? I had a similar issue with a pen. I have a nice ball point pen that takes a simple refill. None of the five shops that I tried sold a simple refill. I could buy a new pen with lots more material, making my nice pen a waste item, but I could not buy just a refill. Refills were available for many pens but these were all more complex and expensive rather than the simple one that I needed. So apparently we can only make a business case for the replenishment of consumables for something expensive. If we want something simple and inexpensive, we have to add unnecessary material with lots of components rather that minimising the use of resources. This also leads to more waste. Is it just me or does this seem madness to you too?   Get in touch if you would like help stopping such madness in your business.
© Martin Gibson, trading as Earthly Gains, 2017
This page contains recent blog articles written by members of the Earthly Gains team or its associates.

Wasteful

purchasing

by Martin Gibson

(first published Sep 22, 2016 on LinkedIn)

As you probably know, there is a lot of support for transforming our economy into one in which resources are kept in circulation for as long as possible, in other words, a circular economy. In such an economy, production and service systems are designed to maintain the value of resources through many product life cycles. At the moment most of our systems assume that we extract resources from the Earth, make something with them and then discard the thing we have made once we are finished with it. This approach is depleting resources and we are starting to be constrained by the limits of our planet. If everybody lived the way people in developed countries do, we would need about three planets in order to have a long-term, sustainable economy. So we need to change, and the sooner the change comes, the less disruptive and cheaper it will be. To move to the circular economy we need new systems and business models. These need to nurture resources rather than just treat them as a disposable and reducing asset. Most of us interact with the economy when we buy things. A resource efficient economy would need to ensure that consumers were able to minimise the resources associated with their purchases. Purchasing should encourage the choice of longevity of a product. One aspect of this is how easily consumables can be replenished. After all you wouldn’t want to throw away your printer every time the ink ran out, would you? Our current systems are very poor at nurturing resources, particularly for inexpensive items. I was struck by this when I went to buy two simple things yesterday: a roll of sticky tape and a refill for a ball point pen. I wanted more sticky tape for my tape dispenser. While many shops were happy to sell me a new dispenser with extra rolls of tape, I went into five shops before I found one that just sold the tape. The odd thing was that the tape alone cost about the same amount as the dispenser with spare tape. So apparently the value of the dispenser was negligible. The materials and energy that went into producing it gave no extra cost compared to just producing a roll of sticky tape. Also, if you buy the new dispenser and tape, your existing tape dispenser becomes effectively valueless and is probably thrown away. There is a cost of waste disposal but this is not factored into the purchase decision. How can our economic system put no value on a product that takes resources and energy to produce and dispose of? I had a similar issue with a pen. I have a nice ball point pen that takes a simple refill. None of the five shops that I tried sold a simple refill. I could buy a new pen with lots more material, making my nice pen a waste item, but I could not buy just a refill. Refills were available for many pens but these were all more complex and expensive rather than the simple one that I needed. So apparently we can only make a business case for the replenishment of consumables for something expensive. If we want something simple and inexpensive, we have to add unnecessary material with lots of components rather that minimising the use of resources. This also leads to more waste. Is it just me or does this seem madness to you too?   Get in touch if you would like help stopping such madness in your business.