The Ecosystem Economy

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What does economy mean? Why does money exist? How does it work?

Have you ever wondered what the ‘economy’ actually is? Or have you ever considered why money exists, where it comes from and how it works? We all live in an increasingly globalized world where a ‘crisis’ in one country can have a large or small knock on effect in our own. How did we get to this point and how might the ‘economy’ be different in the future?

For many years the idea of economic growth has continued while ignoring the costs of externalities such as the environment and air, land and water pollution. Today we are becoming accountable for some of these costs and although some continue with the old ways, many people are shifting decision-making to take smarter decisions and opting to create a cleaner and healthier planet.

In this section on the economy, we explain some basic economic concepts and introduce you to some of the new ways of thinking about the economy, ideas like the ‘Blue Economy’ and ‘Circular Economy’.

Many people got attracted to Vertical Farming because it is a solution for a lot of global challenges. This was because Dickson Despommier introduced an ecosystem concept for Vertical Farming. Enjoy the TEDx talk where he passionately explains the possibilities for Vertical Farming and an economy that resembles an ecosystem.

In the last few years, he has received more and more coverage in the media of his idea of the vertical farm. He was the base for the development of the concept of vertical farming from 1999. He developed this together with graduate students in the medical ecology class at Columbia University. His work was continued by Ontarian eco-architects like Gordon Graff (“University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture”).

Dickson D. Despommier (Professor of microbiology and Public Health at Columbia University.)

More about him click here

Why waste equals food

Current methods for sustainable product development are directed to reduce the harmfulness of the product. The product is seen as part of a chain with three parts; arising (raw material extraction, production), use (energy consumption and consumption of excipients such as washing powder and petrol) and dismissal (recycling and landfill). The “to make less bad” part of a product consists of; choosing cleaner raw materials, an efficiency improvement of the product in use and optimizing the recycling. This is, despite the use of term ‘recycling’, seen as designing a product from “cradle to grave”.

An alternative approach is “cradle to cradle”. The central idea of the “cradle to cradle” philosophy is that all the materials used to create the product can, after the end of the product life, be used in another product. One difference with conventional recycling then is that there is no loss of quality, and no residues to be disposed of as is found in the “cradle to grave” designs. This closed loop system where waste from one product is used as food for another is what is meant by the slogan: Waste = Food!

Let’s start with the basics

What is Economy?

Brief definition

How did it begin and why is it hard to escape

Explanation and has further links to understand supply and demand, agents and utility and gains from trade

How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio (30 min)

The high price of materialism

A bit of history and different attempts for the perfect

What is an ecosystem economy?

From Linear to Circular

The current dominant economic mindset is one that “takes, makes, and disposes.” For our society to be able to sustain in the long term, we need a shift to an ecosystem economy.

Check out these 6 videos and learn about 3 alternative economic ways of thinking: The Circular economy, Cradle to Cradle and the Blue economy. 

Business Models

As in a true ecosystem, there is no set standard for business models. In the following links, you will find a lot of inspiration to design your business model.

  1. IMSA (For further explanations see page 7 on the following link: IMSA Circular business models or IMSA presents Circular Business model Scan
  2. Zero Waste Scotland (For more info, click here: What are Circular Economy Business Models)
  3. Greenbiz (Click here for more info: Models that put Circular Economy into Work)
  4. The Plant in Chicago – Here’s a post about the business model.

Is this bad for the economy?

The circular economy is the business model of the future and as well as today. Reducing resource use by closing the circle can save costs for companies. It also provides many environmental benefits. It is a fact that by investing in the transition costs you save in the long term. The biggest transition is that companies have to see the benefits of reducing the burden on the environment not as a cost!

More detailed Presentations

Now you have an introduction to the concept. If you want to have some more in depth understanding of the concept, watch the following video’s: Ellen MacArthur on food health and circular economyGunther Pauli on Blue Economy and a TEDx-talk by Thomas Rau on Circular Economy.

How to become a Master in the Ecosystem Economy

All the information on this page is just to get you started. To fully understand the subject of the ecosystem economy you need to go more in depth. These are a couple of links to resources that will help you master the ecosystem economy:

Food for Thought

The below questions are here to help you asses your understanding of the Ecosystem Economy and to help you think critically about the concepts. Answer the questions and the comments below and use this as an opportunity to ask questions, exchange ideas, and share opinions with like minded international people and vertical farming experts.

  1. What is, in your opinion, the difference between C2C, Circular economy and Blue Economy?
  2. Can you find 2 different Circular Economy business models? Can you explain them in your own words?
  3. Find 5 companies applying a Circ. Economy business model and describe How they are applying the CE business model.
  4. How do you see Vertical Farming in the mindset of the Ecosystem Economy?
  5. Do you know of any resources that should be added to this page?