The #1 Way to Reduce Your Footprint
If you were asked to identify the single greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Boulder, would you answer vehicle traffic? Electricity consumption? Leaky buildings? Manufacturing? According Metabolic, LLC., the sustainability consultant tasked by the City of Boulder with developing a holistic picture of materials being consumed, recycled and wasted in the city, the biggest culprit is our stuff.
Cities are consumption centers. But the widely used protocol for measuring and reporting GHG does not include those associated with consumption (except those directly generated by landfill activities). Through a material flow analysis, Metabolic developed a picture of the types of materials coming into and leaving Boulder, providing a more comprehensive picture of resource use. Their research found that the amount of Boulder’s embodied emissions of materials, i.e.: the total GHG emissions generated by extracting, producing, storing, and transporting goods, is larger than all local sources of emissions combined.
In order to achieve its climate action goal of an 80% emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2050, Metabolic concludes the city must shift from the current linear materials management approach (make-take-waste) to a circular materials economy which prioritizes keeping product and materials in use at their highest level of complexity for as long as possible, focusing on waste and pollution reduction in design and delivery, and reducing overall consumption by cultivating community opportunities for repair, refurbishment, reuse and resource sharing.
Linear vs. Circular
Simply put, the current linear economic system is based on extracting resources, making products, then throwing them away. While recycling and composting reduce the amount of harm this system engenders, the model depends on a constant supply of virgin natural resources and carbon-heavy manufacturing and transportation processes. This linear system is becoming increasingly unstable and disrupted, exposing communities to social, environmental and economic risks.
A circular economy approach changes the very system of value creation and consumption, transitioning beyond the goal of diverting waste to maximizing resources and reducing the overall amount of waste being created. It’s a regenerative model that prioritizes community wellbeing and self-sufficiency along with environmental stewardship and renewal. A true zero waste community.
Cultivating a Circular Economy
One of the City’s most ambitious and visionary projects on the path to a circular materials economy is represented by its investment in the 10-acre site at 6400 Arapahoe, already home to EcoCycle’s offices and Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM), Blue Star Electronics Recyclers, and ReSource Central Reuse Center.
To spark and support a circular-oriented zero waste community, the city envisions further developing this site by establishing an innovation hub open to artists, entrepreneurs and the community at large. It could host an almost endless variety of businesses and activities including an innovation incubator focused on recycled content or reclaimed material, an upcycled art gallery, retail for renovated products and those made from reclaimed material, repair skills training and a makerspace for community learning and sharing.
In its Circular Economy Report, Metabolic has laid out a roadmap for achieving circularity over the next decade. It emphasizes community involvement and coordinated action requiring the city, its citizens and local businesses and organizations working together to conceive and execute on a shared vision. To learn more, read the report, or get involved visit the Circular Boulder web page.