I have had the distinct privilege of hearing Ray Anderson of Interface carpets speak. One idea he floated for re-envisioning our economy is the idea of closing the production loop by selling services, rather than products. What might this look like in terms of electronics? A lease program? A buy-back option? Recycling programs for last year’s chips?
Yesterday I discussed the need of considering “exit strategies” for those of us with small spaces, but I think rethinking our economy demands going a little further out than considering the nature of a consumer.
Our economy primarily services one consumer: the military. In many ways, it makes sense. Build a bunch of things that eventually get destroyed. What sense is there in talking about recycling a missile? Or in refurbishing an outdated tank where the next generation consistently gets built from the ground up to ensure maximum military advantage? When we build things with the intention of destruction, we operate with a completely different purview than building things with the intention of preservation.
Yet our present economy assumes that everything tends towards destruction. This attitude in turn fuels our problem with waste because we design everything with an eye towards the trash heap. We understand our items as broken, used up, damaged, out of date, and out of style unless they happen to be new.
I am convinced there is a more excellent way. I think we can think about service, value, longevity and relationship. I think we can think in terms of cycles, whether speaking of up-, re-, or down-cycles. I think that forcing the discourse away from destruction towards preservation will challenge us to reconsider the economy as we know it. And I do think that we might find ourselves with some very interesting ways forward that help us honor our common humanity.