The concept of trash is kind of weird, when you think about it. We act as if we put it in the bin and it magically disappears.
Of course, it doesn’t really disappear. It goes somewhere. Landfill, garbage barges, incinerators – the usual suspects of garbage disposal. None of them create particularly desirable outcomes for the planet. It’s a topic that seems tailor-made to make us feel guilty.
But that’s what’s weird about it. In nature, there is actually no such thing as garbage or waste. Every product of every process becomes an input for another process. Squirrels don’t feel bad about dropping seed shells on the ground; it’s ok that dead plants rot where they fall.
So why can’t humans take our cue from Mother Nature on this one?
In the world of corporate social responsibility, there’s definite movement in this direction. They call it the waste-to-profit cycle. Forward-thinking businesses are trying to see waste products not as garbage, but as resources:
Can old, discarded products be broken down and repurposed into new products to avoid using more raw materials? Can water used in manufacturing be saved and used for other purposes, or even cleaned and re-used to avoid drawing more water from the ecosystem? And so on.
Waste-to-profit goes beyond physical waste. Companies are starting to ask themselves: Are we wasting opportunities to serve populations traditionally considered ‘not worth it’, like the poor? Are we wasting employees’ time or enthusiasm in some way?
The old mantra was “more, more, grow grow!”. The new mantra is, “make the most of what we’ve already got.” It’s about being more responsible, but it’s also about saving money.
It applies to our individual lives, too. Practices like composting and buying secondhand clothes fit right into this philosophy. Also, repurposing things we already have to avoid buying more. Making rugs out of old sheets, for example. In our house, mason jars serve as everything from baby food storage to serving dishes. Sometimes we even use them for canning!
Garbage is not always garbage. Sometimes it’s a resource in disguise. I’m thrilled to see this idea taking off in business and at home.
In fact, I’ll be hosting a free 45 minute webcast tomorrow morning on this very subject. Register now to join me and my guest Professor Matthew Grimes. He has some pretty cool things to say on the subject. We’d love to have you on board.