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Monday, October 1, 2018

From a Circular Economy to a Circular Society

Over the past five years, the circular economy moved from a concept to a buzzword to a substantial movement filled with impressive program implementation within diverse public and private sectors. In 2013, The IMPACT Blog article, A Revolutionary Evolution: moving from a linear to a circular economy, introduces the circular economy concept with the following opening:
Humanity is in the midst of a paradigm shift from a linear economy to a circular economy. The entrenched world economy is based on a linear mentality of produce, use and dispose without regard to nature's no-waste systems. A circular economy is modeled after nature's perfection where systems flow in holographic patterns; all benefit and waste is nonexistent.
The article establishes the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) at the helm of the economy's revolutionary evolution with the formation of the Circular Economy 100 (CE100), a platform to re-think the future. A recap of the inaugural CE 100 Summit in London is included in the article.

A spiral mirrors our DNA & is
indicative of perpetual life
Image from New Wave
In the 2012 Regeneration in ACTION (RiA) Blog articles, Perpetual Life Cycle System - simplicity is key and The Perpetual Spiral, the evolution from a zero waste focus to nature's no-waste systems is introduced as an Elemental Impact (Ei) platform. Below are several quotes from the articles:
In nature "waste" does not exist, rather a perpetual life cycle rearranges molecular structures so the finished product for one use is the basis for its next life. 
Remember death is always followed by birth - we are in the process of birthing a civilization where technology-based solutions mirror nature's perfect regeneration processes
With powerful global partners including Google, H&M, Nike, Philips, Unilever, and more, EMF continues at the helm of circular-economy action-oriented programs. In addition to the CE 100, EMF launched The New Plastic Economy and Make Fashion Circular programs with strong global industry leader support.

Though EMF remains at the helm of innovation within the circular economy realms, many other organizations are making a tremendous impact with their initiatives. These organizations are eager to share circular-economy successes with a global audience as well as learn from their foreign counterparts. In January 2014, the Ecologic Institute created the POCACITO project as a platform to educate and share challenges, lessons learned, and successes between European and U.S. cities. From their website:
The project Post‐Carbon Cities of Tomorrow – foresight for sustainable pathways towards liveable, affordable and prospering cities in a world context (POCACITO) is a research project funded by the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for Research, Technologial Development. The objective of the project is to facilitate the transition of EU cities to a forecasted sustainable or “post‐carbon” economic model, eventually leading to an evidence‐based EU 2050 post-carbon city roadmap.
Ecologic Institute US (EIUS) orchestrates delegations of European industry leaders on visits to select U.S. cities. Delegates represent a diverse cross-section of government stewards, activists, entrepreneurs, and non-profit executives from the European Union. For a POCACITO visit, EIUS organizes a series of meetings, tours, workshops, lectures and town hall meetings designed for interactive sharing of in-place circular-economy practices.

Atlanta Visit
A POCACITO delegation from Croatia and Munich, Germany visited Atlanta September 17 and 18 for two whirlwind days of meetings, tours, and vibrant dialogue. The Atlanta delegation consisted of four dynamic individuals:
POCACITO Atlanta delegates
from L to R: Janna, Ramon,
Vlatka and Zoran
  • Janna Jung-Irrgang, Rehab Republic Board Member from Munich, Germany. Janna specializes in creative ways to engage young adults in rethinking their behaviors and relationships to sustainability.
  • Ramon Arndt, Urban Ecologist for the City of Munich and Leader for NGO Green City, the largest environmental group in Munich. Ramon uses a holistic approach for implementing community-oriented solutions to topics ranging from waste to mobility to energy.
  • Vlatka Berlan Vlahek, Senior Associate for EU Programs and Funds, City of Ivanic-Grad, a small city in Croatia. Vlatka uses her 15 years of professional experience relevant to sustainable integrated urban development to connect local stakeholders through initiatives that grow and support a regenerative economy.
  • Zoran Kordic, Co-Founder and President of Green Energy Cooperative from Zagreb, Croatia. Zoran engages citizens in all aspects of community solar projects, including financing.

The EIUS coordinated meetings with the City of Atlanta, Office of Resilience, meetings & tours at the Lifecycle Building Center, a Rounding the Pillars of the Circular Economy roundtable hosted at Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga Tech), and the From Circular Economy to Circular Society Town Hall Meeting held at Southface.

Beril Toktay introduces
Max Gruenig at the round table
On Monday evening, EIUS hosted a casual dinner at South City Kitchen for the POCACITO delegates. The dinner was a perfect way to welcome the delegates to Atlanta as well as share insights and perspectives on the circular economy and beyond. Ei was well represented at the dinner with Ei Founder Holly Elmore, Ei Advisory Council Member G. Boyd Leake (Community Environmental Management President), and Ei Regenerative Facilities Initiative Chair Tim Trefzer (Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) Director of Sustainability) attending the lovely dinner.

The following day the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) hosted the Rounding the Pillars of the Circular Economy POCACITO Roundtable Luncheon. CSB Director Beril Toktay welcomed the delegation and introduced EIUS President Max Gruenig to the roundtable attendees. City of Atlanta Chief Resilience Officer Amol Naik gave impressive roundtable opening remarks, especially considering he is mere weeks in the position.

Michael Chang moderating the
roundtable discussion
With a casual yet impactful demeanor, Deputy Director, Brooks Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, Georgia Tech Michael Chang was a superb discussion moderator. Georgia Tech Scheller School of Business Professor Atalay Atasu joined the POCACITO delegates on the roundtable panel. In his opening remarks, Atalay thanked Holly for an introduction years earlier to EMF CEO Andrew Morlet at a profound dinner with then CSB Founding Managing Director Howard Connell.

Lunch was served in between the welcoming remarks and panel discussion. It was empowering to witness the synergies between the European and U.S. approaches to similar challenges from often different perspectives. Max gave closing remarks as the slated time came to an end.

In the afternoon, the delegation toured the impressive Lifecycle Building Center.

Town Hall Meeting
The final POCACITO Atlanta event was the From Circular Economy to Circular Society Town Hall Meeting held at the Southface event space. Ei was honored to co-host the town hall meeting.

A delectable appetizer served by
Affairs @ the reception
After an excellent reception sponsored by Ei Supporter and Pioneer Affairs to Remember Caterers (Affairs), the town hall meeting began with Holly's opening remarks. Holly introduced Tyler Rogers of local business King of Pops who gave the short-story version of their regenerative history.

In late 2016, King of Pops joined forces with CompostNOW (then Compost Wheels) for a permit-by-rule commercial food waste composting facility at their King of Crops farm. The partnership allowed CompostNOW to expand their residential food waste collection-for-compost program to foodservice operators. In addition, residential customers were permitted to add protein, dairy, and fat items to their collected food waste. The Ei FB album, Ei Connects, includes two sections on King of Crops compost & farm tours for the GWCCA and Affairs.

Next, Holly introduced Affairs Director of Communications & Sustainability Guru Travis Taylor who shared how sustainability is at the core of Affair's business model. Beyond the cost-saving benefit of their waste reduction and recycling, Affairs receives community recognition and increased revenue. Over the years, Affairs identifies over $500,000 of business generated due to their staunch sustainability practices.

Travis Taylor & Saffold Barksdale
of Affairs 
The City of Atlanta proclaimed November 11, 2014 Affairs to Remember Caterers Day in recognition of sustainability efforts, and in particular the milestone of having diverted one million pounds of recoverable materials from Georgia landfills. The RiA Blog article, ... and the journey began with a delicious divorce from the landfill, showcases the City of Atlanta Affairs to Remember Caterers Day resolution, details Affairs waste reduction and beyond sustainability successes, and substantiates the Ei | Affairs long-term, close relationship.

In her town hall panelist intros, Holly added personal anecdotes along with their formal bios for each of the panelists:

  • Janna was honored for her creative approach to engaging millennials with the example of her fun, effective beer cap recycling program.
  • Ramon visited Macon, Georgia (90 miles south) for a Creek Indian celebration during his Atlanta stay.
  • Vlatka is pursuing her Ph.D. in architecture; Holly compared the country of Croatia's population of 4.2 million to metro Atlanta's population of 6+ million. 
  • Zoran enjoyed a two-week vacation in Portland, OR with his family via a house swap prior to the POCACITO visit. 
Before the formal presentations, EIUS Fellow Brendan O'Donnell educated the crowd on EIUS and the POCACITO project. The delegate PPT presentations are available for download on the Ei Connects page with details on their respective topics.

Brendan  & Max @ the
town hall meeting
Post presentations, Max moderated the town hall discussion which ran the gamut of handling food donations and food waste, solar energy affordability, the important role urban agriculture plays in establishing local food resilience and more. Max ended the formal discussion in time for participants to enjoy Affairs' desserts and King of Pop popsicles. Conversations continued until it was time to vacate the Southface facility - a sign of an excellent, effective event!

Kudos to Max and Brendan for orchestrating a superb two-day POCACITO visit to Atlanta. The tremendous pre-visit planning resulted in successes on many levels and dimensions.

The final section in the Ei FB album, Ei Connects, includes a pictorial recap of the whirlwind day.

It was an honor the EIUS selected Atlanta for a POCACITO delegate visit. Events over the two days were perfect venues for the delegates and Atlanta hosts to share their accomplishments and benefit from each other's challenges, lessons learned, and successes.

With the European Union supporting projects like POCACITO and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation expanding their action-oriented programs, the stage is set to evolve from a circular economy to a circular society.

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