On Jump-starting the circular economy movement in Ecuador

I am trying with all my mind and heart to develop the field of Circular Economy in Ecuador, my home country. Yes, I write Circular Economy with capital letters because I think it is one of the most important strategies we have to transform the current linear consumptive environmental-social-economic system into a regenerative one.

  • I am currently working in three areas: higher education, research and professional community building.

I have been providing sessions for undergraduate and graduate students in several universities on the concept of Circular Economy. Through education, we can inspire learners to re-think the future through the circular economy framework. Many of the graduate students who attended our Circular Economy sessions are entrepreneurs, so I have received many questions about how to start a Circular Economy business.  They also wanted to know more about best practice cases so they could adapt them to the Latin America context. Many professors also seemed to be very interested in the topic and would be keen to develop relevant research projects.

I am currently involved in two research projects on circular economy. One is with Catholic University in Quito, to develop Circular Economy business models for the informal labor market with used tires. The other one is to develop a “circular cacao” project using the Circular Economy principles. This project has just begun and I will soon travel to a community that produces cacao in the coastal area of Ecuador.

Outside of the academic realm, I am also organizing the first free event about Circular Economy in my city Quito, as part of the Circular Economy Club initiative, for which we will map out all the activities related to this field. I am also part of the Circular Economy Platform of the Americas, which is an organization that puts together all the actors that are working in this field in my region.

  • Lessons learned

One of the first things I’ve learned so far is to be patient. I came back to Ecuador just a year ago and step by step I am gaining more and more opportunities to tell people about Circular Economy. It hasn’t been an easy path, but I am giving it my best.

I’ve also learned how to tailor my message for the audience. I decided not to talk too much about Industrial Ecology to the public as I felt the concept is more difficult to fully comprehend. I think Circular Economy is an idea that can engage more audiences. However, people who don’t know much about Circular Economy often confuse it with recycling, which is why I always emphasize “Circular Economy is not recycling” at my presentations.

  • Future plans&collaborations

Going forward, I would love to travel around different cities in Ecuador and the world developing Circular Economy projects. I would like to develop a method for Circular Economy business models to engage the local communities and write about the experiences I have had in this field along with local communities and the informal market, which is very common in Latin America. Therefore, I would really love to hear stories about how my fellow industrial ecologists are starting their own sustainability projects in their home countries of Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. What kind of partnership have they developed? What kind of stakeholders have they managed to engage? And how different audiences react to our messaging differently?

I would really hope that the ties within our industrial ecologists’ community would keep going strong so that we can find synergies in our work and develop co-projects to drive this movement forward together.