The consumerism of Christmas always highlights to me the difficulties that we face in reducing our environmental impacts. Finding resourceful solutions to these problems will take time, but I am encouraged by the increasing role of the circular, or closed loop, economy.
One only has to look at the tenders that WRAP have been putting out this year to see that the shift to resource security and new ways of working is well underway. To many people, the waste sector is one that is focussed on the stuff we throw away. But for those of us working in it, it has always been about the resources we use, and how to use them better, with less impact. As the world shrinks and economies grow, the way we use these resources becomes more important. Back in 1972 the Club of Rome wrote the first Limits to Growth report, arguing for the importance of the environment and the things it provides for us. At the time, the counter-argument won the day, as in economic terms, resources that are valuable will never run out, just become increasingly expensive.
Now, with the growth of China and the BRICS and the ever-consuming populations, the limits to growth arguments are once again reaching the mainstream. It is not only the coal or the rare earth minerals that we should be concerned about, but also the ability of the ecosystems to provide the vital services we need – clean water and air.
I went to a fascinating Green Alliance event last week that explored the issue of resource resilience and security. We talk regularly about energy security, but our economy also needs resource security, or resilience, if it is to be sustainable. Hence the new focus on different models of business, where products are leased, not sold. Where jobs are created in service and maintenance if not in production. Where new organisations, such as the Ellen Macarthur Foundation are aiming to educate the next generation. If this is the way we are headed, then I am feeling positive about 2012. So as you unwrap those presents, the challenge is to see if you can think of a different way for the wrapping paper industry to work. Merry Christmas!