Sustainability and Economic Recovery: The Value of the Circular Economies

Updated: Nov 2, 2020



As countries mandated self-isolation and quarantine rules at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world observed improvements to air and water quality. In China, the reduction in the number of vehicles on the street and the decline in factory operations resulted in a sharp decrease in emissions. This led to a dramatic decline in pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter. The Venice Canal ran clear and rare aquatic life returned to the Italian coastline. This improvement was attributed to a decrease in tourism and reduction of boat traffic that typically disturbs sediment in the surrounding waters. These positive changes shed light on what we could achieve if the world came together to reduce our environmental impact. It is not realistic to ask everyone to stay at home every day and wait for nature to heal itself, but it indicates that there is hope for us to restore our planet.


Image of nitrogen dioxide density level in China before and after COVID outbreak (NASA, https://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/146000/146362/china_trop_2020056.png)
Image of Venice without tourist and boat activities (Lopez Robin, Unsplash)

We live on a planet that has finite resources and our current consumption rate exceeds what the planet can produce. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date our resource use has exceeded what the planet can replenish in a year. All consumption past that day creates a deficit in resource stock and a surplus of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. For the past two years, Earth Overshoot Day fell on July 29th, however this year it was almost a month later on August 22nd. This improvement can also be attributed to the decrease in human activity during the pandemic. However, to ensure that future generations can thrive on a healthy planet, we cannot wait for a disaster to slow down our activities; we must act proactively to delay Earth Overshoot Day. COVID-19 has disrupted our economy and has presented a unique opportunity to rebuild with new innovations. Is there a solution that can reduce our consumption of resources without sacrificing economic growth? A circular economy could be the solution we are looking for to utilize sustainable business practices as a means of e