Circular Food

The traps of one-way business thinking

This is the third in a series of posts exploring the growing opportunities of strategic sustainability.  The first summarised 10 hidden opportunities and the second explored 4 levels of sustainability strategy.   Now we’re starting to work through those 10 opportunities hidden by 20th century thinking.

Neurobiologists have confirmed in the last few years what philosophers have suspected for millenia – that in our limited-energy, biological brains we see what we expect to see. What we assume (ass-u-me) blinds us to viable opportunities.

One-way ISN’T the fun way….

One-way systems models are of the most basic limiting mindsets of business – and they’ve been around for an awfully long time. Most mainstream business has it so deeply embedded it’s been invisible until recently:


Whether it’s a polyester jumper or a plastic bag, most industrial systems designed between the 1950s to the 1990s took ZERO responsibility for what happened to a product after its useful life was finished.

Smart design is going circular

Smart inventors, thinkers and early adopters have been developing better approaches to doing business for at least two decades.  Some well known books include BiomimicryCradle to Cradle and The Upcycle.

In 2010 global yatchswoman Ellen Macarthur came back from an ocean voyage and launched The Ellen Macarthur Foundation for The Circular Economy.


Thinking circular isn’t all about new technology

The Circular Economy is NOT just about new businesses, new infrastructure, or new capital equipment. The Circular Economy IS all about new thinking, utilising existing assets and collaboration.”  – Steve Morriss, Circular Food

Circular Food

Serial entrepreneur Steve Morris (founder of Close the Loop recycling in Melbourne) has started a new business turning food waste into compost.  The business looked at a local problem, scanned for solutions, found a set of partial solutions and made a whole new business model.

The challenge was food waste in the city.  Worm farming was part of the answer – but transporting urban food waste to a rural worm farm had massive transport overheads.  By combining anaerobic digestion and dehydration, they developed a system that captures biogas, dehydrates food waste, then uses vermiculture (worms) to turn the food waste into fertiliser.

Local needs, local resources, local jobs, local ecosystems – local opportunities

So the #1 place that business opportunities could be hiding “in plain sight” is in your supply chain.   If you can shift your thinking beyond mine/make/use/dump then you may well see opportunities to create value by upcycling materials.

Again, it’s worth doing some “matrix” thinking to explore at the 4 different levels  of process maintenance, process upgrades, function innovation and system innovation.


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