Aligning circular economy and inclusion in Vancouver

Whether it’s an economic downturn, the pandemic, or mounting climate-related disasters, it’s becoming ever clearer that marginalized communities suffer a larger part of the impacts and need to be centered in any recovery discussions. In Vancouver over 2020, a number of projects and organizations did just that, aligning circular economy and inclusion.

[T]he answers to building a more just and sustainable recovery lie in using existing resources and being mindful of both our collective intake and output: “Reduce our consumption, consume the products we have for as long as possible, and when we can’t use them in the same way, repair them, reuse them or share them with someone who can. When that’s not possible, use the raw materials to make something else.”

Awareness of these interrelated issues is growing, but some people have been tackling such problems for a few years, building sustainable models. Like the Wood Shop, a co-op that has been in operation since 2014.

Chris Nichols is the co-founder of Wood Shop, an East Vancouver worker co-op where workers who have had barriers to employment make custom furniture with reclaimed wood. … “I think the only way organizations like ours can grow their impact is through collaboration,” he says. That’s our greatest asset, and something we need to use to our advantage. I hope others can learn from the mistakes we made, and from the efforts we’ve made.”

Some others have been forced into rethinking their business during the last year and a half, and have used the opportunity to establish circular principles.

Sharewares, Irwin’s new core business, provides reusable containers to five Vancouver cafés, allows takeout customers to return containers to any participating café using a locator app, and washes the containers in a centralized facility.

A circular model often starts with repair and reuse, which are most commonly done locally. So inclusiveness must not only be an integral part of re-inventing how we do things, it’s also logical and effective to do so locally.

Photo: street view of downtown Vancouver. Credit: Wikimedia Commons