12 Circular Economy Books: What Goes Around Comes Around

What is the circular economy and why does our future depend on it? Here are Rachel Sheila Kan's favorite circular economy books to read about circularity in economics and design.

The economy affects everyone within societies, as well as our relationship with the planet and each other.

Learn about the circular economy and how it can help heal our relationship with the Earth.

What is circular economics?

Circular economics simply put is a systemic approach to economic development in which the growth benefits business, society and the environment.

This is opposed to the ‘take-make-waste’ linear model that is exhaustive and wasteful, the circular model is regenerative by design.

For example, the circular model decouples itself from consuming finite resources which the linear model depends upon – and a method that has unsurprisingly brought about many of the ecological problems we face today.

Economist Ken Webster takes economics to the basics, saying that economics essentially asks three questions:

  • What do we produce?
  • How do we produce it?
  • Who benefits?

Circular economies actively question the sentiment of ownership and how we consume. In fact, the circular economy model posits biological materials as the only things that we consume, while technical materials (like machinery) are used – not owned.

The circular model is based on three principles:

  • Design out waste and pollution
  • Keep products and materials in use
  • Regenerate natural systems

It appears that circular economic models are likely to influence society in the future, showing a powerful contribution to achieving global climate targets.

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Links to the best circular economy books

What Goes Around Comes Back Around: 12 of The Best Circular Economy Books:

Circular model expert Rachel Sheila Kan shares her favorite circular economy books to understand the planet saving potential of the circularity.

1. The Essentials of Theory U: Core Principles and Applications by C. Otto Scharmer

C. Otto Scharmer’s The Essentials of Theory U is a concise and accessible guide to the key concepts and applications of his theory, Theory U.

He calls for us to become more aware of the interior from which our attention and actions originate, and describes this as a blind spot.

He goes on to speak of this blind spot within contemporary leadership, and potential methods to help change.

The Essentials of Theory U can be seen as an introductory or companion text to Scharmer’s academic Theory U.

2. Regenerative Leadership – the DNA of life-affirming 21st century organizations by Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm

Sustainability and leadership experts Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm invite readers to explore a new way of leading and redesigning organisations and communities with Regenerative Leadership.

Utilising business cases and examples from nature’s ecosystems, this book provides insights into pioneers, tools and techniques of the twenty-first century. Mainly aimed at leaders, this book also offers an up-to-date insight for those interested in circular economy models.

3. Climate: A New Story by Charles Eisenstien

As the title suggests, established author and speaker Charles Eisenstien tackles issues around our relationship to the planet – including a chapter on unpacking climate denier’s perspectives.

Climate refocuses the reader’s attention away from the notion of impending catastrophe associated with climate change, and instead encourages a cultivation of emotional and psychological connection to the earth.

Shifting away from narratives of blame and war, the book seeks a more restorative approach to the planet – on both an individual and collective level.

Providing actionable steps, Eisenstien’s book is an essential read for the majority, with not only understanding how to tackle climate anxiety, but also how to help stop climate change itself.

4. Designing Regenerative Cultures by Daniel Christian Wahl

Daniel Christian Wahl’s Designing Regenerative Cultures covers an impressive array of areas.

Wahl argues what is intrinsically wrong with our societies, organisations, ideologies, worldviews and cultures, while providing his own solutions.

From dissecting finance systems and economy, to ecology and agriculture, he explores the ways in which we can reframe and understand our current crises.

With the aim of encouraging a more constructive and regenerative worldview, instead of the dominant destructive mode of thinking, this book is ideal for those interested in how circular economies can impact all aspects of society and thinking.

5. Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition by Charles Eisenstien

Sacred Economics is a vital read for those interested in the history of money, its transformation from a gist to modern capitalism.

Charles Eisenstien traces how this relationship to money is destructive, that this money system has contributed to the alienation, competition and destruction of community in a bid for endless growth. Integrating theory, policy and practice, this book provides concepts of new economics and includes both conventional and unconventional economic thought.

6. Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth

Established economist Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics became a bestseller for its significance in the scholarly field of economics.

Raworth details what she believes to be the seven deadly mistakes of economics, and proposes a radical re-envisioning of our contemporary, unsustainable systems. She argues that circular economics is what is a requirement if we are to meet the demands of the twenty-first century.

An interesting read that contains important economic and political thinking, Doughnut Economics is for open-minded readers.

7. From What Is To What If by Rob Hopkins

Activist Rob Hopkins has written six books on environmentalism and activism, including From What Is To What If.

It is in this book that Hopkins invites the reader to revive and replenish our collective imagination, to nurture the creative spark that is needed for societies to evolve. He highlights the multitude of issues that plague contemporary societies, from mental illness to climate change, as well as the rise of extremist movements.

Hopkins uses this social and political philosophy text as an inspiring call to action, including anecdotes from communities and individuals from around the globe who are reimagining the world as we know it.

A great read for those wanting to be inspired, and longing to imagine a better world that can be put into action.

8. Ancient Futures by Helena Norberg-Hodge

Founder and Director of the non-profit International Society of Ecology and Culture (ISEC), Helena Norberg-Hodge is dedicated to the revitalisation of cultural and biological diversity.

In her book Ancient Futures, she details the community, culture and society of Ladakh – also known as ‘Little Tibet’.

It is through this community that Norberg-Hodge details the possibilities of a circular economy while simultaneously questioning the notion of linear progress. Ancient Futures shows that communities around the globe do not necessarily function the same, and that there are lessons that we can learn from each other – that the solutions to contemporary problems may in fact be already solved.

9. The Case For Degrowth by Giorgos Kallis et. al

Leading experts in economy and political ecology collaborated for The Case For Degrowth to fully explore the notion of degrowth.

In this compelling read, Giorgos Kallis et. al. argue for living differently – living more with less and prioritising wellbeing, equity and sustainability.

By drawing on emerging discourse in addition to enduring traditions from around the world, they outline policies that have the power to reshape societies for the better. An essential read for students, policy-makers, and those who are concerned with economics.

10. Reinventing Organisations: A Guide to Creating Organisations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness by Frederic Laloux

Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organisations recounts humanity’s breakthroughs and moments where consciousness shifts.

To be utilised as a guide for businesses, nonprofits and other organisations, this text provokes an inspiring mode of thinking.

Calling upon histories, as well as contemporary pioneers, Laloux retells inspiring stories, insights, making a soulful workplace seem like it’s not too far in the future.

11. Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken

Paul Hawken, environmental activist and economist, explores how fighting the climate crisis is intrinsically linked to societal formations.

It is argued in Drawdown that if countries around the world started to revolutionise in a variety of ways, from educating girls in lower-income countries to revolutionising food production, that tackling climate change would be a by-product.

By drawing upon thinking from leading researchers, scientists and policymakers, Drawdown provides readers with a well rounded introduction to circular economics and its broader impacts.

12. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking The Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart and William McDonough

Michael Braungart and William McDonough’s book Cradle to Cradle is nothing short of a thought-provoking read.

Instead of the standardised ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ that came along with the Industrial Revolution, the authors argue that instead of minimising waste we should produce more value.

The sentiment of the text is that we could live in a world where there is no waste – that everything has a use. A great read for anything interested in alternative economic formations and thought experiments.

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