Last update: 21/04/2023

In the blue economy, nature not only supplies daily resources for production but also teaches us how to use them efficiently. Here are the principles of the blue economy.

Climate change and natural resource depletion are two major reasons that more individuals and public and private organizations have been looking for more sustainable consumption and business alternatives in recent years. You may have heard of the circular economy, the green economy or sustainable finance, which promote  responsible production and consumption without endangering the planet.

In 2010, Belgian economist Gunter Pauli launched another initiative: the blue economy. In his book, The Blue Economy,  he proposes some 100 ideas for sustainable production. In short, Pauli’s main idea is that we should make production mirror nature by using all resources efficiently and keeping waste to a minimum or turning it into raw materials to make new products.

The principles of the blue economy

To understand how the blue economy works, we will go over its most important principles, which are based on natural ecosystems.

Consume locally

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When we think about how wild animals feed, we can imagine a tiger hunting within its habitat or a squirrel gathering nuts from nearby trees. Similarly, the blue economy suggests that society consumes local natural resources, without intensive food production  that require large logistical chains or gas-emitting transport from other areas.

Use all waste

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In nature, some animals eat fruit but discard the peel, which are later eaten by other animals or decompose and provide the soil with nutrients. Similarly, in the blue economy, waste is  a resource and  can be used in another cycle as a raw material. It aims to eliminate scraps and rubbish. Turning plant waste into biofuel or bioplastics could be an alternative.

Make and use only what is essential

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The blue economy questions how we produce and consume things. Some questions it poses are: Is what we produce or consume essential? Can we substitute it with another product or raw material? This raises our awareness so we can use fewer natural resources and produce less waste. Ultimately, we should consume more efficiently to meet basic needs, not overproduce, with nature as the main ally and not as a victim.

How are the blue economy and the green economy different?

The principles of the blue economy could also pertain to the circular economy (optimizing the use of resources) and the green economy (protecting the environment). At first glance, how they all differ might seem confusing.

But for Gunter Pauli, its main proponent, the main difference is that, in the blue economy, available resources are used efficiently without increasing the costs for either companies or consumers; in the green economy, companies must make a higher investment and the consumer must therefore pay a higher price for a sustainable good or service.

Do you know the seven Rs (7Rs) to be eco-friendly? This article (in Spanish) by Sano de Lucas tells you efficient consumption habits to improve your financial health

Oceans in the blue economy

The "blue economy" can also refer to production and related activities done in the ocean; however, the object of the blue economy is different. In the blue economy, businesses exploiting resources (through fishing or mining), producing energy, or engaging in maritime transport or tourism in bodies of water or on the coast should reduce their harm to the environment and become sustainable .

In other words, the seas provide economic resources that businesses should manage efficiently, in addition to restoring damaged ecosystems and introducing innovative technology that make consumption sustainable. In fact, technology, research and investigation, is a strong alley. In the last years several solutions have emerged oriented towards the cleaning of ocean garbage and sea dumping in the marine world.

Still, whether it focuses on the oceans or imitates how nature works, the blue economy always has the same goal: to reduce the harm human activity has to the planet and to make our consumption more environmentally friendly.

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