Thinking Sustainably And Economically

Dr Barbara Nebel is a powerful woman in business doing amazing things for the good of the environment and is an expert in her field, which made her seminar “How do we determine if a cotton bag is better than a plastic one?” incredibly engaging and interesting. She discussed the importance of using the theories of life cycle assessment, circular economy, cradle to cradle and life cycle thinking in combination to make significant decisions around reducing our negative environmental impact.

I learnt significantly from this seminar that the way we think about packaging is important because by completing a lifecycle assessment we are able to determine approaches of packaging and their impact on the environment. Cradle to cradle is an important method in both the service and in production for measuring the impact on the environment. The purpose of cradle to cradle is waste materials from the product become a part of the new product, therefore using lifecycle assessment to create a circular economy which positively impacts the environment. By using this method, the life of materials are heavily extended as cradle to cradle repeats because of the circular economic thinking that Nebel and her colleagues theorised. Cradle to cradle has two interesting approaches with a biological cycle for consumption products and a technical cycle for service products. In the biological cycle, materials are returned to the biosphere to compost and other environmental nutrients these become the foundation for new materials continuing the life cycle of the product. The biological cycle is heavily important in the fast fashion industry. By eliminating the need for products to be thrown away after one use, cradle to cradle in its’ biological cycle mitigates waste. Nebel used the example of Mud Jeans, a company which leases jeans; once the jeans rip and become unwearable, the materials are recycled to make the next pair of jeans. Mud Jeans estimate between 23% and $40 of a pair of jeans is recycled denim.

Overall, Nebel’s concept was intriguing and I had not heard of it previously; I learnt significantly from the seminar and was provoked by Nebel to think about my future purchases with lifecycle assessment and the other methods she discussed to mitigate my environmental impact on the planet.

Sophie Simons
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