A circular economy is an alternative model to our ‘make, consume, dispose’ linear economy, where products and materials are kept in a high-value state of use for as long as possible. The circular economy is about the environment, the economy and people. It is about the moral imperative to reduce our demand on the planet’s resources and create a truly sustainable community model.
Through bio-dynamic agricultural practices, Camphill communities have encouraged healthy conditions for life by rejecting practices that damage soil, plant, animal and human health. Positive practices include seeing the farm as a living organism, enhancing ecological harmony, guardianship of land and resources, excluding the use of artificial chemicals, and avoiding off-farm inputs. Other important factors are product quality, self-sustainability, supporting local production and distribution, energy efficiency, restorative practice, having no concept of waste, and recycling nutrients. Can community consciousness be raised to move this mission beyond agriculture?
Design - Communities can build core competencies in a circular design to facilitate the reduction, reuse and recycling of products. Design and intention can eliminate the concept of waste, so the environment will not be treated as a waste reservoir. This act of social responsibility shows a deep respect for human and natural systems. Important areas for design include localisation of economic activity, minimising waste in production and supply chains by rejecting non-renewable materials, investing in design-to-last products that can be upgraded or repaired, and developing shared asset schemes which reduce the need for raw materials.
Social Enterprise Models - Communities can embrace innovative enterprise models that either replace existing ones or seize new opportunities. Camphill is well placed to innovate. Possible directions might include sustainability initiatives, selling long-life products which can be easily maintained and upgraded, selling zero waste products, embracing re-manufacture and repair, and selling services rather than products. These models and initiatives may inspire other communities and therefore expand geographically.
Technology - Communities could develop new and additional skills in circular technology to enable them to use and recover valuable biological resources and also return materials safely to the ecosystem. This technology could include energy recovery, renewable power generation, the built environment and water treatment systems.
Inclusion- Communities could continue to challenge the idea of people with special needs as being passive recipients of services by engaging them in recycling, waste prevention and the circular economy. This is an opportunity to pave the way in making these issues accessible, broaden the scope of life skills, promote meaningful work and support social inclusion.
Enable - Communities can use skills and knowledge to empower people, making the circular economy commonplace. Collaboration with the wider community, policy makers, educational institutions and social therapy partners may strengthen Camphill. A cultural component of communities could include community action, skill sharing, events, talks, art and films. Sustainable practices will lead to recognition for Camphill not only as a care provider but as a model for future human settlements.
Humans have the responsibility for the development of their ecological and social environments. There is an interaction within the entire socio-economic environment which community members can actively shape through a variety of management practices and innovations. The Camphill Village is already conceived of as an organism, a self-contained entity with its own consciousness, aiming to live differently. If Camphill communities increase their consciousness and embrace the circular economy they can be an important movement in the face of climate change and energy security.