Over the past three years, as Classroom of Hope has been shifting our efforts to focus more intentionally on environmental sustainability as part of our overall mission, we’ve started talking a lot about the idea of the “Circular Economy.” 

This concept has become incredibly central to everything that we’re working towards, so we wanted to take a minute to dive deeper into the concept of the Circular Economy – what it means, why it’s important, and how Classroom of Hope is embracing it in all of our projects!

What is a Circular Economy?

In short, a circular economy is an economic system that is designed to minimise waste and make the most out of our world’s limited resources.

Contrasting with Traditional Linear Economic Models

The traditional (and outdated) models of economic development are linear – with a “take-make-waste” or “produce-use-dispose” model, where raw materials are mined, turned into a product, and then disposed of after use. Of course, time has shown that this mentality has a hugely negative impact on the ecosystem – causing environmental degradation, wasting resources, and contributing to an attitude that prioritises profit over sustainability and a lack of concern for ecological consequences.

As global resources dwindle and environmental concerns escalate, relying on a system that doesn’t prioritise reuse and recycling will inevitably lead to resource depletion and heightened environmental crises. The circular economy gives us an alternative path forward, turning our focus to a more sustainable, efficient, and inclusive development model.

A Better System

Circular economy models move us away from these traditional linear models, focusing instead on systems where products and materials are reused, repaired, and recycled continuously! The idea is to eliminate waste from the system, with products and materials that are designed to be reused over and over again, or repaired or transformed into new products. In this model, our waste becomes our new raw material!

Graphic sourced from Santander.com

Why is the Circular Economy So Important?

The circular economy is built on a few core principles that reshape our approach to resources and community:

1. Resource Efficiency and Waste Minimization:

The heart of the circular economy model is the idea of optimising resource use. This is the part of the model that directly challenges the old “take, make, dispose” system by pushing for the continuous re-use and recycling of materials. By consciously designing products to last longer and to be able to be repaired and reused, we reduce waste and avoid over-extracting Earth’s resources.

2. Community Focus & Social Benefits:

Beyond the environmental and economic benefits, the circular economy places a strong emphasis on social impact. It advocates for local, community-driven solutions (this is something we strongly believe in, see our last blog for more) – recognising that there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for development! Community-based development helps to make sure that solutions are relevant to the local ecosystem and that they’ll be sustained by the local community. This approach empowers communities, creates jobs, nurtures skill development, and fosters innovation and self-reliance. 

3. Regenerative Design:

This concept goes beyond just minimising harm to the environment, but instead promotes activities that actively rejuvenate our ecosystem. For instance, using sustainable farming methods that enrich the soil or tapping into renewable energy sources.

4. Systems Thinking:

Instead of the all-too-common short-sighted focus on individual products or materials, circular economy models see the bigger picture. Our economy is interconnected, with different industries, products, and natural systems all depending on each other. The circular economy recognises that a change in one area can have cascading effects across the system. By being able to see how our economy is intertwined, we’re able to seek solutions that benefit the whole, rather than just one entity.

The Big Picture: Drone footage of SDN 4 Taman Sari during construction in June 2021

In essence, the circular economy gives us a blueprint for a more balanced and sustainable future. It blends efficient resource management with community empowerment, all while maintaining respect for our planet.

Classroom of Hope and the Circular Economy

Time to bring this full-circle! At Classroom of Hope, we’re proud to have fully embraced circular economy development in all of our projects, but especially in our Block Schools

By using the incredible technology from Block Solutions Asia, we’re turning Indonesia’s plastic waste into sustainable building materials – lightweight, affordable, and earthquake-resistant blocks that can be used to construct schools and homes in local communities in Lombok, Indonesia.

How does this follow circular economy principles? 

Resource Efficiency and Waste Minimisation

By rescuing the plastic waste choking Indonesia’s land and waterways and turning it into building blocks with Block Solutions Technology, we have taken what was once waste and turned it into the raw material for production!

Community Focus & Social Benefits

The concept of community-led decision making and local engagement has always been crucial to Classroom of Hope, and this project is no exception. From our local NGO partners who decide where to build schools, to the local construction heroes who train other teams in Lombok how to build with this new technology, we prioritise community involvement and sustainable development. Between our local construction teams, the sourcing of materials from local plastic banks, and our support of the Block Solutions Lombok Factory this past year, all of our projects are contributing to job creation, skill development, and sustainable self-reliance on Lombok. 

Regenerative Design

Education is, in itself, a regenerative process. By providing students with a safe and good quality learning environment, our Block Schools cultivate knowledge and innovation and empower our future generations to actively contribute to the betterment of their communities and our world as a whole!

Systems Thinking

Our programs recognise (and thrive on!) the interconnected nature of community development, education, and environmental sustainability. We know that just showing up and building a school without a holistic approach that considers local factors or outlying concerns is not sustainable development. Instead, we consider every move carefully to ensure that solutions in one area (education) support and amplify positive outcomes in others (waste minimisation, job creation, earthquake preparedness, and more)!

Classroom of Hope: Ending the Plastic Crisis While Creating Schools

Overall, the circular economy isn’t just an economic model—it’s a necessity. With its emphasis on sustainability, community involvement, and resource optimization, it’s a holistic approach to development, and one that we truly believe is going to be crucial for our world moving forward.

At Classroom of Hope, we’re proud of our journey towards embracing this sustainable model. Our initiatives, like the Block Schools and Block Homes, stand as testaments to what’s achievable when we think circularly!

We invite you to join us in this mission. Whether it’s by fundraising to support our projects, joining The Block, learning more about the circular economy, or implementing it in your own community, every step counts.

Together, we can build a future that’s not just prosperous but also sustainable.