Circle Back to This Email

Or just get around to it right now!

Hi! I’m Sarah. Minimum Viable Planet is my weeklyish newsletter about climateish stuff, and how to keep it together in a world gone mad. I’m always curious to know what you think.

Reader Danae sent me the above line after last week’s newsletter, in which I had rhapsodized at 1.5x speed about trying to get more stuff done in less time. Try to think in circles rather than straight lines. I love this sentence. It’s an ecopoetic spin on work smarter. And of course I love a circle. Also an ellipse. Who doesn’t love an ellipse?

Danae went on to elaborate on the idea of getting things done while getting things done. She writes: 

if I'm weeding, I'm simultaneously gathering mulch for my fruit trees -

if I'm shredding paper, I'm creating mulch for my raspberries -

if I'm sweeping, I'm adding to the kitchen compost bin -

if I'm mowing orchard pathways, I'm gathering nitrogen for the compost tumbler -

if I'm changing water in bird baths, I'm watering mints planted at the base of bird baths.

I love the idea of a circle of actions, a thing that helps another thing. It’s circular economy without all the bureaucracy. It’s circular thinking without going in circles.

At a talk I listened to yesterday, (yes, I am always listening to talks, but I love how there’s an interesting panel every twelve minutes these days) speaker Jo-Anne St. Godard, Executive Director of the Recycling Council of Ontario, stressed the heightened importance of circular economy given how broken recycling is these days, especially here in Canada. (Canada is big, so people dump a lot of stuff here.)

While the pandemic has caused our household to waste less food, our recycling is perpetually full of boxes. Where our farmshare once delivered food in reusable bags, COVID fears mean everything now comes in a plastic bag inside a cardboard box inside a Hazmat suit. Plastic bag bans have been lifted in many jurisdictions, and we’re obviously using PPE like it’s going out of style. All necessary, of course, but heaping new challenges for an already beleaguered recycling system. Maybe Extended Producer Responsibility could extend to cardboard and Jeff Bezos can figure it all out. If you can’t tell, my circular eyeballs are rolling.

I’ve been baking a ton and kneading to give away my bake goods. I drop them at friends and neighbours houses out of some weird desire to make sure everybody has cookies, and also because if I’m turning the oven on, I might as well really use that energy (thanks Hannah!).

I love the idea of mutual aid, and picture new circles being created all over the city. Someone in our neighbourhood offered to do a bulk order of St. Viateur bagels from Montreal. Everyone got into it. Thousands of circular bagels all rolling into Toronto, and being distributed across our hood. It’s fun to picture.

Ultimately, our net zero or net positive future is about building a world of circles. Nothing is shot out into the world to be wasted or discarded. Almost everything is looped around, repurposed. We always circle back to the beginning. I find this metaphor both appealing and calming. We’re all here, closing loops together.

So random, but this appeared in my IG feed this week.

It’s true. I mean the song did make me melancholy in a way I couldn’t explain, but we were sitting around a campfire hugging our best friends, so we didn’t think about Neil Young being depressed about aging out of childhood. Probably because there’s comfort in…a circle. Hope you find comfort this week. As always, tell me about the loops you’ve hooped.


Writes lovely Helen: I am amazed everyday on how what is waste for one person is truly a treasure for another.  We are coming into strawberry season here and they are packaged in a plastic single-use punnets.  Last year I had saved several punnets and decided to put them on the Spare Harvest marketplace to see if someone else would use them.  Well I moved to all to another home.  One gentleman used them for growing his micro-greens, another person used then as a small hothouse for their seeds and a lady used them to package up her homegrown cherry tomatoes so she could share then with her family.  We don’t have to take on the burden of doing everything ourselves, as a community is easier and more rewarding.  I now save those punnets and use them to cover my ripening fruit so the birds don’t eat them.  I would never had thought to use them this way if it was not for the people I met and the conversation we shared when I first put them on our marketplace.

From inspiring Saara, who reminds me again of how amazing Finland is: Check out this Lichen Fest in the forest. And then check out this amazing art organization, that “unites the worlds of art and science and offers hope amidst the climate crisis.”

And in cute people dancing: This feels like a lifetime ago, but it was only January. I don’t know when we’ll be able to circle dance together again, but here’s to keeping the jams alive.

Thanks for reading. Hope you are healthy and happy,