Principles of ecopreneurship
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Energy and resource use efficiency and maximization
“In nature, one-way linear flows do not long survive. Nor, by extension, can they long survive in the human economy that is a part of the earth's ecosystem. The challenge is to redesign the materials economy so that it is compatible with the ecosystem.”
By minimizing waste production and maximizing reuse of waste streams, sustainable business can significantly increase profits. Key aspects to measure include solid waste, liquid waste, wastewater, air pollution, energy use, carbon emissions resulting from reduced transportation, hazardous chemical use, excess product supply, industrial waste as enterprise raw material, and the sustainability of raw materials (ability to consistently source raw material without reducing raw material supply or negatively impacting ecosystem).
Most natural resources are valued due to their economic importance. The ecosystem provides additional services that do not traditionally have monetary value in the economy and therefore are not considered in business finances but are indispensable to economies, such as mitigation of droughts and floods, soil generation, and waste detoxification and breakdown. In recent years economists have begun to recognize and explore the value of nature’s services, as more and more frequently businesses and economies are losing income and growth potential due to environmental degradation. This has resulted in the development of markets for carbon, biodiversity, and water. These marketplaces provide opportunity for businesses to gain income by protecting local resources and preventing environmental damage.
According to the Natural Step framework, a sustainable society must:
- not systematically subject nature's functions and diversity to increasing concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust.
- not systematically subject nature's functions and diversity to increasing concentrations of substances produced by society.
- not systematically impoverish nature's functions and diversity by physical displacement, over-harvesting, or other forms of ecosystem manipulation.
- not subject people to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs.
Eco-efficiency and eco-effectiveness
Eco-efficiency was initially coined by the World Business Council on Sustainable Development to describe methods of decreasing waste while increasing productivity. William McDonough’s design firm, MBDC, takes that a step further to reflect cradle-to-cradle thinking of waste equaling food. Under this model, eco-effectiveness refers to “industrial systems that emulate the healthy abundance of nature” so that the waste of the production process and the product itself can be the raw materials of a new product or service.
- Lester Brown, Earth Policy Institute