Thinking in Circles

There is a very easy way to communicate what sustainability is.

Sustainability is a circle.


Photo by Joey Kyber on Unsplash

If something can complete a circle it is more likely to be “sustainable”.


  • Trees: tree – leaves – soil – tree/tree – fruit – animal – manure – soil – tree
  • Water: evaporation – condensation – precipitation – evaporation
  • Walking: walk – grow muscles – walk further

Unsustainable activities are linear:

  • Car travel: use petrol – drive – burn petrol – gases into the atmosphere
  • Plastic packaging: petroleum byproduct – manufactured into plastic – wrap item for transport or sale – item reaches destination – plastic is discarded as waste

In the case of food we can see an unsustainable and a sustainable way of operating:

  • Unsustainable Food: Food is purchased from the supermarket – packaging is discarded as waste – food is eaten – manure goes through sewerage/unused food is thrown into the bin
  • Sustainable Food: Grow food plants – eat food – turn waste and dead plant matter into compost – save seed – compost goes to soil – seeds are replanted.


Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

In one instance food is reduced to a product of an economic system. In the other food follows a natural process of which consumers are a part and can participate in.

Think in circles and you will likely be able to figure out whether an activity is sustainable or not. Just ask questions to work out what comes before and after each step.