Circular economy needs to include the built environment



Written by Garry Cooper and Trevor Langdon

trevor langdon

Gary Cooper

Thousands of corporate real estate professionals will gather in Denver this weekend for the CoreNet Global Summit, ready to discuss office vacancy rates and return-to-work policies. What they need to talk about is the circular economy.

What does that mean? Well, when most people think about the circular economy, when they think about everything, they think about recycling. And while it’s worth doing and it’s worth improving, it’s only part of circularity and a last resort before throwing it in the trash. If it works: In theory, soda cans are infinitely recyclable, but in reality, nearly half of used beverage cans in the United States end up in landfills.

And if they do know about circularity, it’s probably in the context of reducing single-use plastics and reducing food waste. And yes, the coffee cup that passes through your hands on the way to the dump every morning is a problem we need to solve.

But to focus entirely on these issues is to miss the elephant in the room. More precisely, there is no room. This refers to the built environment, spaces and places that the corporate real estate industry manages on a global scale.

As Prashant Rao recently asked on Semaphore, “The sector responsible for around a quarter of energy-related carbon emissions could benefit from well-known, cheap and easily implemented solutions. , that could significantly reduce its footprint. So why not?

These solutions include basic measures such as retrofits and heat pumps. And beyond that, it also includes working toward a circular workplace model that engages employees, saves costs, reduces emissions, and transforms economic engines into workplaces for a circular economy.

We know this is possible because this is what we do every day. Rheaply gives organizations of all types access to a recommerce platform for furniture, fixtures, equipment, and building products, offering rich sustainability reporting and a network of connected marketplaces. Green Standards is a sustainable decommissioning company that works with over 25% of Fortune 500 companies to keep office supplies in use during workplace changes and out of landfills. Together, we’ll see how the great promise of the circular economy can be realized in offices around the world.

The theory is simple. Design waste, reuse everything, and regenerate the natural and built environment. In reality, as we’ve learned from over 20 years of combined experience, the hardest part is getting buy-in.

Our entire economy is based on a linear “take-make-waste” model, and the office is no exception. Why not order more printer paper than you need? Just throw that chair on wobbly legs. The cubicles are from the last century, so they are junk. These are consequences, not ideas, and we need to change them.

With the right mindset and a little planning, old office chairs can be given new life at your local nonprofit. Equipment that one department doesn’t need is immediately available to the team down the hall. Strategic reselling into growing secondary markets can support the overall business. And nothing ends up slowly decomposing in a landfill.

That’s the circular workplace we’re building today, and the one we’ll be discussing this weekend in Denver. It’s not only possible. That’s happening. And the more the real estate industry knows about this, the more they can put that story into action.

Garry Cooper is CEO of Rheaply and Trevor Langdon is CEO of Green Standards.

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