The Circular Economy


On the topic of climate change, the most attention to date has gone to fossil fuels, greenhouses gases, and renewable energy. But civilization can move itself far closer to the goal of a livable, sustainable planet by making a related, fundamental change: embrace the circular economy.

A circular economy is defined as one that that eliminates waste and pollution, instead a closed-loop system emphasizing reuse, recycling, sharing, and repair. Ideally, waste and pollution are cut out of the equation in the design phase, and products and materials are kept in use.

This is a dramatically different, but eminently healthier, more efficient, and natural system than the take-make-waste, linear-economy way of doing business that has dominated advanced countries for too many generations. As the Ellen MacArthur Foundation explains, millions of tons of plastic and polystyrene that enter the oceans every year is the result of single-use packaging. This can be replaced by compostable alternatives made from mycelium, from mushrooms, to cite one example.

Another example of the circular economy that is gaining attention is regenerative agriculture, farming and grazing that actually reverses climate change by “rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity.” Regenerative agriculture “leverages the power of the photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and builds oil health, crop resilience and nutrient density.”

In October 2018, Circular CoLab issued The State of the Circular Economy in America: Trends, Opportunities, and Challenges. Transitioning to a circular economy is no small task, it found. It will require “the alignment of every process within the economic system,” including energy production, resource utilization, manufacturing, sales, collection, reuse and repair, and environmental regeneration.

But if fully 45 percent of greenhouse gas emissions result from the production of cars, clothes, food, and other products, can we afford not to make the transition to a circular economy?

The fashion industry, too, is undergoing a reinvention to a circular model that is based on the reduce-reuse-recycle mantra as well as efficiency, non-toxicity, and biodegradability. For example, the Make Fashion Circular initiative works to transform an industry in which less than 1 percent of clothing is recycled to a model aligned with circular principles.


Accelerating the transition to a circular economy

Every day we are reminded why there’s an urgent need to transition to a more sustainable economy. Living in the UK we’ve just had an Arctic’ spring, while elsewhere in Europe, Spain has broken its…
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5.7 How Companies and Communities Can Stop Wasting Time and Start Reducing Waste with the Circular Economy

It’s the last episode of Season 5! Over the past six episodes, we have talked about growing the electrification workforce, how the Supreme Court shapes environmental protections, partnerships between universities and tribal nations for climate…
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Transitioning to a circular economy can cut global plastic waste by 80 per cent by 2040: UNEP report

By Yujie Xue in Shenzhen 05/16/23
The world could reduce plastic pollution by 80 per cent by 2040 if countries and companies implement deep policy changes and transition to a circular economy, according to a report by the United Nations Environment…
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Turning off the Tap: How the world can end plastic pollution and create a circular economy

By UNEP 05/16/23
The report proposes a systems change to address the causes of plastic pollution, starting by reducing problematic and unnecessary plastic use, redesigning the system, products and their packaging and combining these with a market transformation…
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Circular economy: Faster progress needed to meet EU resource-efficiency targets, ensure sustainable use of materials and enhance strategic autonomy

By Directorate-General for Environment 05/15/23
The EU must continue its efforts to reduce consumption of materials and generation of waste to achieve a more circular economy according to the European Commission’s revised Circular Economy monitoring framework published today.
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Advance Market Commitments: Applying Climate Change Lessons To Fighting Plastic Pollution

By Rob Kaplan 05/15/23
With the growing likelihood that the earth’s temperature will warm beyond the four-alarm fire level of 1.5C, we have arrived at a make-or-break moment. What keeps me up at night is that despite the progress…
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Global South circular economy could generate millions of job opportunities

The transition to a circular economy could lead to the creation of millions of new jobs. At the same time, this shift calls for informed policies that promote both job quality and environmental sustainability.
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Back to the future – accelerating the adoption of circularity

By Robert Metzke 04/05/23
Circularity is often presented as a fresh, new answer to humankind’s pressing environmental challenges. In actual fact, ‘circular’ is not new at all. Pre-industrialization, it was the dominant economic model. Nothing was lost or discarded,…
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Towards a Carbon-Free Circular Economy

By Jana Kremer-Homann and Harry Morrison 03/30/23
In this episode, host and Bain Senior Manager Jana Kremer-Homann welcomes Christine Levêque, vice president of collection and recycling at Tetra Pak, and Harry Morrison, Bain partner in London. This episode’s topic is “the carbon-free…
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Beyond Recycling: Reckoning with Plastics in a Circular Economy (March 2023)

As the world considers how to address the growing impacts of the triple planetary crises of pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss, many discussions point toward a circular economy approach as a much-needed solutions pathway.
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Join the Reuse Revolution

10 simple steps you can take to move closer to zero waste and reduce single-use plastic pollution
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Does Tax Policy Support The Circular Economy?

By Aleksandra Bal 01/17/23
The circular economy envisages a shift away from the linear “take-make-dispose” model to a system where products and materials are reused in new cycles. While we are beginning to see a focus on greater resource…
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Circularity Gap Report 2022 Live Launch: Unleash the power of the circular economy

This edition draws on five years of the Circularity Gap Report analysis to show the power of the circular economy to equitably fulfil our global needs and wants, but with radically fewer materials and emissions.

Understanding the Circular Economy

The business world may be the only area more in love with technical jargon than environmental science. So it’s no surprise that environmental business initiatives lean towards the incomprehensible. Even though 62% of consumers say…

Fixation: How to Have Stuff Without Breaking the Planet Fio

Our massive global system of consumption is broken. Our individual relationship with our stuff is broken. In each of our homes, some stuff is broken. And the strain of rampant consumerism and manufacturing is breaking…

21 Circular Solutions To Avoid Climate Breakdown

Circular economy strategies can cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 39% and help avoid climate breakdown.

How the circular economy tackles climate change

Completing the Picture highlights the indispensable role that the circular economy plays in tackling the climate crisis. It aims to demonstrate how circular economy principles and strategies significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Impact Report 2019-20

With the turn of the new year, 2020 launched the world into a chaos that had long been predicted, but hardly prepared for. Covid-19 held a magnifying glass to the global economy’s flaws—flaws that have…

Greenbiz’s section dedicated to Circular Economy

Up-to-date articles and resources on circular economy.


Set ideological wars aside and pursue a science-based, truly circular economy

By Matti Rantanen   12/14/22  
The impact of climate change has never been felt so strongly in Europe. With temperatures hitting record highs in October and November 2022 after a summer of dramatic droughts, our leaders must continue to work…
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Even the clothes you donate probably end up in a landfill

By Nell Durfee   06/11/22  
Inside a large industrial building in Jamaica, Queens, I sighed, taking a quick break from ripping staples off of fabric. My back was to the windows, but even if I wanted to look outside, I’d…
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These homes are off-grid and climate resilient. They’re also built out of trash.

By Nick Aspinwall   01/04/22  
Mike Reynolds never worried too much as the world inched closer to doomsday. In the spring of 2020, motorists lined up in their cars outside grocery stores waiting for food as the coronavirus pandemic first…
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Next Stop for the Tire Industry: The Circular Economy

By 3P Editors   11/29/21  
Tires may not be the first commodity that comes to mind when imagining a circular economy. Their numbers are hidden in plain sight. Globally, approximately 1 billion tires reach the end of their lives each…
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Earth911 Podcast: Rent-a-Romper Founder Lauren Gregor on Reducing Baby Clothing Waste

By Laurent Gregor   10/19/21  
The fashion industry is a profligate source of pollution, even when making baby clothing. Lauren Gregor founded Rent-a-Romper to help parents find and reuse baby clothing. During the first years of a baby’s life, they…
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Reusable Packaging Is the Latest Eco-Friendly Trend

By Jamie Ducharme   09/28/21  
When you toss a plastic bottle into your recycling bin, there’s no guarantee it actually gets recycled. In fact, odds are, it doesn’t. According to the World Economic Forum, just 14% of plastic packaging is…
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Could Seaweed Be Key to More Recyclable Packaging?

By Sarah Lozanova   08/30/21  
As consumer demand for more sustainable packaging increases, DS Smith is researching the use of seaweed in paper and packaging products. In particular, the British multinational packaging company is exploring seaweed as an alternative fiber…
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The Shopping Mall Where Everything Is Recycled

This shopping mall in Sweden has everything recycled.
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The Role Of Battery Recycling In The Circular Economy: Part 3 – The Role of Policy

By Kezi Cheng and others   06/25/21  
Battery chemistries are changing rapidly, and battery designs with significantly lower cobalt content could dramatically impact profitability. One of the biggest challenges these companies face is inhomogeneous input material. Furthermore, solid state or lithium metal…
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The Role Of Battery Recycling In The Circular Economy: Supply Chain, Logistics and Profitability

By Kezi Cheng and others   06/24/21  
The current battery supply chain is shown in red in Figure 2. Low grade (e.g. 50%) material from mines is refined by a smelter to 97-99%, and further upgraded to battery specifications (99.9% or greater),…
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How digitizing global supply chains will advance the circular economy

By Georgia Sherwin   06/24/21  
For all of the wrong reasons, global trade and supply chain logistics have been front of mind this year. When consumers get what they want, when they want it, they typically don’t ask too many…
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The Role Of Battery Recycling In The Circular Economy: Part 1 – Key Technologies

By Kezi Cheng and Others   06/23/21  
Only a few major battery innovations (Lead Acid by Plante, Nickel Cadmium by Jungner, Lithium-ion by Goodenough/Sony) have reached significant market penetration since the 1800s. As of 2018, over 90% of large‐scale battery storage power…
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Regenerative thinking meets circular economy in the bioeconomy

By Maki Tazawa   06/22/21  
From bioplastics to mushroom leather, the bioeconomy replaces materials from unrenewable sources, especially fossil-fuel based plastics, with bio-based ones. But a combination of circular economy processes and regenerative thinking brings the bioeconomy past just bio-based…
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Climate Change Is the Symptom. Consumer Culture Is the Disease.

By Emily Atkin   06/12/21  
To save the planet, mankind must rapidly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. But where should we be reducing those emissions from? What would make the biggest difference?
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The circular economy meets decommissioned wind turbine blades

By Sarah Golden   06/11/21  
As the world ramps up renewable energy deployments, an uncomfortable truth is arising: The materials, manufacturing processes and disposal methods for clean technologies are creating their own issues. Case in point: wind turbine blades.
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Circular economy’s role in decarbonizing heavy industry

By James Pennington & Eric Hannon   05/27/21  
The world must reach net-zero emissions by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change. This is no easy feat, but one clear solution could lie in industry emissions. Globally, industry emissions are responsible…
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Aloha ‘Aina and Evolving a Circular Economy

By Noe Tanigawa   05/27/21  
Summer's coming and hurricane season is ahead. In just a few years, people have become more aware of heat, flooding, fires and other growing effects of climate change--and experts say any possible remedies will also…
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Arc’teryx Launches ReBird, a Hub for Upcycled Outdoor Gear

By Katherine Martinko   05/25/21  
Outdoor gear maker Arc'teryx launched a new platform this week called ReBird that houses all of its sustainability and circularity initiatives in one place. The company describes it as a hub for efforts relating to…
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How the Circular Economy Can Transform Manufacturing

By Colin Elkins   05/21/21  
In a resource-constrained world, there is a noticeable trend of companies opting into the circular economy model. For manufacturers, this shift involves a move away from the “take-make-dispose” linear economy and a step towards increased…
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Does Recycled Gold Herald a Greener Future for Jewelry?

By Elizabeth Patton   04/23/21  
With economics and industrial engineering degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford, and a decade working at Tesla, the electric-car company where her husband was a co-founder, Boryana Straubel had long set her sights…
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As early renewables near end-of-life, attention turns to recycling and disposal

By Emma Penrod   04/09/21  
Although only a handful of states have implemented rules related to the disposal of batteries, PV panels and other renewable assets, the time has come to consider their fate as early installations reach the end…
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Decarbonizing cities – how to harmonize buildings, mobility and infrastructure

By Francesco Starace and Jean-Pascal Tricoire   01/11/21  
An integrated approach is needed to fully decarbonize cities. Digitalization across buildings, mobility and energy infrastructure is key to achieving net zero carbon. Decarbonizing cities will not just benefit the environment, but also the jobs…
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How To Practice The Three R’s In Fashion: Reducing, Reusing & Recycling Clothing

By Sam Bowman   06/26/20  
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, textiles take up about 5% of all landfill space in the United States. Much of that percentage is made up of clothing that gets thrown away. Thanks to fast…
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Coronavirus-induced oil price plunge is hurting the circular economy for plastic

By Robin Hicks   04/06/20  
One of the biggest oil demand falls in history may be good news for emissions-watchers. But it’s bad news for the business of plastic recycling. How will pricier post-consumer plastic affect corporate sustainable packaging commitments?
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How Instagram Culture Is Contributing To The Climate Crisis

By Sara Li   02/21/20  
Social media feeds our appetite for fashion, but the result is a recipe for environmental disaster. ...
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Is a world without trash possible?

By Robert kunzig   02/18/20  
The vision of a “circular economy”—where we use resources sparingly and recycle endlessly—is inspiring businesses and environmentalists alike.
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A Greener Red Carpet

By Carla Cantor   02/07/20  
Will Joaquin Phoenix show up at the Oscars in the Stella McCartney-designed tux he vowed to recycle throughout the awards season? Will Jennifer Aniston dress in a vintage gown as she did last month at…
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Suavs Recycles Water Bottles Into Sneakers

By Debra Born   02/03/20  
Take a sip out of that disposable water bottle that you bought when you thought no one was looking. Then hold the water bottle out and look at it as if for the first time.…
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Adidas to launch new fabrics from recycled ocean plastic, polyester

By Emma Thomasson   01/28/20  
BERLIN (Reuters) - Adidas (ADSGn.DE) will launch new fabrics made from recycled polyester and marine plastic waste and expand the product lines that use them after the success of shoes made with the Parley for…
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Nestlé invests in food-grade recycled packaging

By Erin Sloan   01/16/20  
A prominent food and drink processing company is making moves to further a circular economy and invest in more sustainable options for its packaging.
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Policy is key to driving a more circular apparel industry

Such a shift would see the sector move away from the traditional linear ‘take-make-waste’ process by minimising waste and using materials that can also be recycled and reused at the product’s end of life. Circular…
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Reducing food waste to tackle the climate emergency

Philip Simpson, commercial director at leading food waste recycler, ReFood, gives his insight into how fighting food waste can help in the “war against climate change”.
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Ellen MacArthur Foundation launches metrics tool in bid to speed circular economy

By Terry Slavin   01/15/20  
Terry Slavin reports on how the new Circulytics tool, which has been tested by 30 companies, including Brambles and DS Smith, will help companies track their progress on cutting waste and CO2 emissions
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This tool tells you how much your fashion habits hurt the environment

By Alexis Benveniste   01/15/20  
The key word for Vogue’s January 2020 issue is values. Interpret that as you may: monetary, ethical, sentimental. Every definition relates to the big picture: that fashion needs to reassess its value system, and quickly.…
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The Circular Economy And Sustainability Powered By Blockchain

By Antony Welfare   01/13/20  
There is an increasing focus on and awareness of the damage humans are causing the planet. Whether you believe the extent of this or not, I am sure you agree that we should become better…
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Fashion for Good

Fashion is stuck in a pattern of ‘take-make-waste’, which causes devastating environmental impacts, not to mention huge economic losses. On average, we buy 60% more clothing than we did 15 years ago — but we…
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How to build a circular economy that recycles carbon

By David Roberts   01/08/20  
This is part four of a four-part series on carbon capture and utilization (CCU), the growing industry dedicated to using carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere to fight climate change. Part one introduces CCU and…
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Circular Economy: What It Is and Why We Need It?

By Carmen Valache   01/07/20  
Producing, consuming, and throwing products away is starting to affect our planet and our way of life. A new way of doing things, which is based on nature is starting to emerge: the circular economy.
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From trash to cash: How a Thai entrepreneur turned used flip-flops into a sustainable business model

By Ryan Anderson   01/03/20  
Although flip-flops are not recyclable, Tlejourn upcycles them into new, solid mats, which are then use to make new footware....
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6 circular economy trends that will shape 2020

By Meg Wilcox   01/02/20  
Circular economy approaches advanced in 2019, particularly for plastics and packaging. The explosion of media interest in the ocean plastics crisis has driven both consumers and regulators to seek action. Companies are responding with new…
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Recycling & Scrap Reclaim: Machinery Technology Advances as ‘Circular Economy’ Takes Hold

By Heather Caliendo   01/01/20  
October’s K 2019 show in Düsseldorf, Germany, focused heavily on the role plastics will play in the “circular economy.” Recycling is a critical component of realizing real gains in sustainability. Based on the new technology…
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Why the circular economy model is imperative for a brighter energy outlook in 2020

By Anil Chaudhry   12/30/19  
As the impact of climate change becomes more pronounced globally and in India, the importance of energy efficiency and effective management of resources increasingly comes into focus. When the global economy is facing challenges the…
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How Circular Supply Chains Will Take Businesses From Landfill To Refill

By Jonquil Hackenberg   12/19/19  
What’s the ultimate destination of consumer goods? For many if not most products, it’s not actually the customer or end user–landfill is the last link in the chain.
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How Ford makes car parts from used McDonald’s coffee beans

By Michelle Yan   12/19/19  
Every year, McDonald's produces more than 62 million pounds of coffee chaff. That's the unused dried skin that comes off of coffee beans during the roasting process. And that 62 million pounds used to go…
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The Future of Fashion Is Circular: Why the 2020s Will Be About Making New Clothes Out of Old Ones

By Emily Farra   12/19/19  
The key word for Vogue’s January 2020 issue is values. Interpret that as you may: monetary, ethical, sentimental. Every definition relates to the big picture: that fashion needs to reassess its value system, and quickly.…
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A circular economy from thin air

Steadily permeating the sustainability conversation is circularity—extending the life of goods and recycling products at end of life so that the material resources within those goods are utilized, rather than being lost in landfill. The…
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The App Buying Back Your Unwanted Clothes To Fuel The Circular Economy

By Brooke Roberts-Islam   12/16/19  
Steadily permeating the sustainability conversation is circularity—extending the life of goods and recycling products at end of life so that the material resources within those goods are utilized, rather than being lost in landfill.
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20-Year-Old Inventor in India Creates Biodegradable Plastic Substitute Made From Banana Leaves

By Robert Jay Watson   12/13/19  
Adithyaa has been winning awards for his designs and tech accomplishments since he was a boy and has devoted his considerable talents and time to solving one of the 21st century’s big challenges: plastic pollution.
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How Dow seeks to turn plastic waste into a circular resource

By Shannon Houde   12/13/19  
Haley Lowry, global sustainability director at Dow, has big plans for plastic. Representing one of the largest plastics producers in the world, she is working to create new systems, products and technologies — such as…
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4 Environmental Startups Driving The Circular Economy

As we approach a tipping point in the climate crisis, with scientists warning of disastrous consequences, more of us are realizing that our current economic model must change. We must stop consuming endlessly and shift to…
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