ANN ARBOR, MI — “Circular economy” isn’t yet a household term, but Ann Arbor hopes to change that in its quest to become a greener city.
It’s a central strategy of the city’s A2Zero carbon neutral plan, and it’s about keeping goods and materials rotating and out of landfills by reusing, repairing, sharing, lending, and finding ways to extend the useful life of items such as appliances, bicycles, furniture, toys and clothing.
A linear economy, on the other hand, creates waste as items are produced, sold, used, and discarded.
Building a circular economy means rediscovering a culture of recovering products and materials, says the city’s new circular economy webpage, directing residents to resources including a map of local establishments such as thrift stores and workshops. repair, and ways to learn how to repair and reuse broken objects.
The city has also created this checklist for residents to see how much they are already participating in the circular economy:
“Everyone is part of the circular economy”
Ann Arbor leaders are beginning to talk more and more about the transition to a zero-waste circular economy, which includes expanding and increasing use of composting, recycling and reuse services and programs, supporting the local and sustainable food production and construction waste recovery programs.
With voters’ recent approval of a new 20-year climate action tax, the city will have more funding to move these efforts forward starting next year.
“It’s a really important area to continue to focus on because it’s really personal – everyone is part of the circular economy,” said Missy Stults, the city’s director of sustainability.
“We’re going to invest in things like reuse systems, swap days, but we also need the public to come forward and help us define ‘circular economy’ and what they want to see and how they want to commit to making it happen”. ,” she says.
Swap days can be opportunities for community members to come together and donate items for free and exchange goods, she said.
Anything not taken on swap days could be donated to social service agencies and thrift stores, Stults said.
Many local residents are already participating in the circular economy by engaging in online forums where second-hand items are regularly offered for free and claimed by eager buyers. One such forum, the “Buy No Things Ann Arbor, MI” Facebook group, has over 18,000 members.
Ann Arbor has also long had a culture of residents placing used items on the sidewalk with “free” signs, and these items are often quickly picked up by neighbors. However, some residents have complained to city leaders that they received infringement notice city code enforcement officers for leaving items on the sidewalk.
Whether the city should relax enforcement to better foster a culture of reuse has been discussed, but authorities have yet to change rules against leaving items on the sidewalk.
Stults said his office aims to facilitate a more organized approach.
“Stay tuned,” she said. “We’re going to be making a whole bunch of public pledges early in the new year to define the circular economy, and we need all the voices.”
The city’s website encourages residents to stay tuned for a new video series from the Community Television Network called “Making the Old New: Stories of Circularity.”
One of the first videos tells the story of “Just Help Yourself Day”, an effort organized by residents of the city’s West End to share free stuff. Another tells the story of El Harissa, a North African and Mediterranean restaurant and market on Maple Road that participates in the city’s reusable takeout program and has calculated the carbon footprint of each of its dishes, by categorized as low, moderate or high.
“We are happy to share that over half of our dishes have a low carbon footprint, so you can enjoy our food while saving the planet,” the restaurant proudly proclaims.
The City wants to change consumption habits
The city’s circular economy initiative was discussed in detail at a recent meeting of the Ann Arbor Environmental Commission.
Jenny Petoskey, the city’s solid waste awareness and compliance specialist, presented a preliminary budget of $150,000 for circular economy branding and marketing, with a promotional campaign proposed for launch next spring. , possibly with circular economy entities advertised on billboards and bus stops.
“We want to change the way people buy and value goods and services,” she said. “We want the circular economy to be the first option, instead of a quick online purchase or a big box store.”
Commissioner John Callewaert said he and City Council member Lisa Disch, D-1st Ward, along with Petoskey, have been meeting regularly for nearly two years to work on the circular economy strategy. Their work garnered support, he said, citing funding from the NextCycle Outreach and Messaging Grant and two interns through the city’s office of sustainability. They also had the support of a group of graduate students from the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability who secured additional funding.
“Finally, we have just been funded by a $20,000 grant from the Urban Sustainability Administrators Network to help us conduct targeted community outreach activities,” Callewaert said.
“Our project has been inventoried, mapped, and now we want to mark Ann Arbor’s circular economy to make it visible, accessible, and attractive to anyone who would buy, sell, or participate,” Petoskey said, noting that many shows of greenhouse gases come from the production of new goods and food.
“When people think of reducing their carbon footprint, they usually think of energy, solar panels, electric cars – they don’t think of the goods they buy,” she said. “This is where the circular economy comes in: 45% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the consumption of products and materials. I just want it to sink in a bit. Everything we buy produces greenhouse gas emissions.
There is already a large circular economy based on those whose participation is a part of their lives, rather than a term, and historically that has included low-income people and people of color, Petoskey said, noting that agencies social services often use repurposed goods to help house and resettle people. Some of these organizations include the Community Action Network, Jewish Family Services, and House N2 Home.
“These organizations are building equity and resilience in our community,” Petoskey said, also mentioning local food production and distribution through entities such as Argus Farm Stop, Food Gatherers, Project Grow and People’s Food Co- Op.
“Food production, especially on a large scale, is fossil fuel intensive,” she said. “Anything that maximizes the use of food reduces greenhouse gas emissions.”
Buying food in bulk and buying local also helps and reduces packaging waste, Petoskey said, citing stores such as By The Pound and BYOC Co. (Bring Your Own Container). She also noted the opportunities to borrow a wide range of items from the Ann Arbor District Library, which lends everything from books to movies, CDs, musical instruments, household tools and carvings. ‘art.
Disch said she’s been working hard on the city’s circular economy strategy and devoting about as much time to it as anything else on council.
“It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” she said.
She encourages residents to visit the city’s website to learn more and sign up for a circular economy newsletter.
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Ann Arbor proposes banning natural gas hookups for new buildings
$1.44M Conservation Purchase Creates One of Ann Arbor Area’s Largest Nature Preserves
Argus Farm Stop owner honored as Washtenaw County Woman of the Year
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