A sold-out event this week in downtown Minneapolis brought together leaders from business and nonprofits to share big thoughts on environmental sustainability and the concept of a circular economy.
The circular economy focuses on minimizing waste and making the most of resources, mainly by improving wasteful designs and finding ways to reuse what we’ve already got.
That’s in contrast to our current linear economy that goes something like this, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation: We use resources to make things, and when we’re done with them, we throw them away.
The first-ever Circularity 19 conference, sponsored by GreenBiz, drew representatives from such companies as Apple, Lockheed Martin, Procter & Gamble, Dow Chemical, Method and Google. Major local sponsors included 3M and Ecolab to the Minneapolis Marriott City Center.
3M took the stage to announce that from now on, it will only use recycled plastic fibers to manufacture its Thinsulate fabrics and Scotch-Brite scrubbing sponges.
3M sustainability chief Gayle Schueller also highlighted a fresh 3M policy requiring every new 3M product to have a measurable sustainability goal to cut water, energy or material use. She also noted that 3M has a medical device recycling program that refurbishes or processes 150,00 items a year.
Ecolab CEO Doug Baker said the St. Paul-based chemical and filtration firm expects its internal and customer water filtration and conservation efforts to save 300 billion gallons of water a year by 2030. It already saved 188 billion gallons last year.
Best Buy Co. Inc. used the forum to announce that for the first time it would set goals to help consumers reduce their carbon emissions. The company also said it will continue its own efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, pledging to reduce energy use by 75% by 2030.
The Richfield-based retailer, a contributing sponsor, said it would help consumers reduce their energy use by 20% over the next decade or so, which would lower utility costs by $5 billion. It plans to achieve this by “putting more emphasis” on selling Energy Star electronics, appliances and other energy-saving devices.
The effort includes intensifying employee training and customer-education efforts so more consumers understand the benefits of Energy Star products, Best Buy said. The store carries 23 product categories with an Energy Star rating, including appliances, TVs, computers and connected devices.
The retailer’s efforts to educate consumers about energy-saving products has been recognized by Energy Star, a federal program run by the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy.
The new consumer targets are certified by the Science Based Targets initiative, which is a collaboration between the Carbon Disclosure Project, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Increasingly manufacturing firms such as 3M, Ecolab, Graco, Donaldson Co., Delkor, General Mills and others showcase programs that help customers slash their packaging, raw-material use and/or energy and water consumption. Many producers began issuing “sustainability reports” a few years ago, which have become increasingly specific about goals and accomplishments.