Have you stopped using PET bottles? Do you still buy fast fashion? Many of these ‘conscious consumer’ questions will sound familiar to those of us who are aware of the impact our decisions and actions have on nature and society at large. And some products much greater scrutiny than others, in some cases it can be chalked upto ignorance but in others it's the lack of necessary infrastructure that can facilitate a seamless transition to a circular economy.
What is a Circular Economy?
The way we consume products today is very much in the lines of a take-make-waste mentality. We eat food outside and throw our plastic spoons away. We buy clothes for throwaway prices and only use it a couple of times before it gives away and tears. This model is a linear model of consumption.
Where we use products once and throw them away. This model functions today because industrial technology and government economic models have evolved to facilitate their demand and supply.
It is cheap, convenient and most importantly creates a lack in the consumer's mind that they can fill with buying more products. It's basically great for capitalism.
Now, a circular economy is one where we reuse or extend the lifespan of products as much as possible to ensure that the strain on the environment is lesser.
Circular economy functions only if the products we consume are of high quality and durable. It doesn't work on disposable products as the quality on them is very low and they need to be discarded after one use.
In a circular model, quality trumps quantity.
The above image is a pictorial representation of how a circular model works. As defined by Bocken's framework.
The Role of Business and Brands
Business as usual is no longer enough. Being a force for change and part of the solution is imperative for business survival. (Source: World Economic Forum)
Consumer goods companies that touch the lives of many people have an opportunity and responsibility to promote conversations, influence attitudes, change behaviours and provide solutions.
In the case of period care products, there has always been a stigma and shame associated with them. We shy away from talking about periods and the products that can work for people.
At Naari, or aim always has been to bring safe, comfortable and convenient reusable pads to women in India who hesitate to shift to menstrual cups or are looking for better alternatives to disposable pads.
You can read about our philosophy here.
What About Convenience in Circular Consumption?
When products have to be consumed in a Circular Economy, they actually have to meet higher quality standards.
They need to be durable, made with high-quality material and facilitate a convenient usage.
For e.g. using our own water bottles are much easier than buying PET bottles every time we are out and need to quench our thirst. Moreover, we can be sure of the quality of water and the sanitary aspect of the bottle.
products that can be reused are more safe, easier and of better quality than disposable products.
In the case of Naari Pads, we use material that has been through several rounds of quality checks, which is durable and long-lasting.
The pads themselves are easy to use and clean. The shift from disposables to reusables for many women has opened up an avenue to reconnect with their bodies and appreciate what their bodies can do for them.
And because of the high-quality of materials used, many women have experienced very comfortable periods without rashes, infections or bad odour.
Read a Customer's Journey here.
The Path Ahead
Embracing the circular economy is the biggest opportunity of our lifetime. Our shared journey towards a more sustainable future requires new perspectives on consumption and responsibility. Achieving long-term balanced growth can only happen through awareness and collaboration.
When we move towards a more sustainable and circular economy, we redefine how economic development looks, not just for middle and high income households, but economic development that has a trickle down effect, reaching the masses.
As stated in my previous blog, the consequences of waste are mostly borne by marginalized folks who can neither complain about their predicament nor are the ones who are generating the said waste in the first place.
Redefining Economic Growth with Circular Consumption looks like saying no to products that are disposable with poor quality and embracing products that are good for you, and in return the environment.
Because, after all, we are part of nature too :)