Bio-economy, Green Economy and the Circular Economy – same same?

It’s confusing, isn’t it? They are mostly political terms, so the exact definitions are probably non-existent, but let’s settle for vague. I do think they’re different and important to distinguish, so here’s my stab at explaining what the differences are between bio-, green and the circular economy, and then I throw in water sensitive design as a bonus. Oh, and distributed. That’s what all of these have in common. This is just my opinion, of course.

The logistics






verrry rough notes

Finland – A Natural Resource Strategy for Finland: Using natural resources intelligently (April 2009) and Sustainable Bio-economy: Potential, Challenges and Opportunities in Finland, Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund (March 2011),

“We should not only view bio-economy as a new business sector but also consider
the wider spatial and material flow aspects of increasing bio-based production.”

“The goal of this publication is to raise discussion on the distributed bio-economy as part of the future societal and economic system. How does bio-economy build up spatially? What is the path to a resource efficient bio-economy?”

“reforestation, which in addition to better soil management
helps fight climate change.
Forests absorb carbon and are therefore effective carbon sinks.”

The forests and other renewable
green stocks not only help control climate change but also provide valuable raw materials, food
and recreational services for communities – human and wider than human.

Both local and global markets are guided by policies. Unlike today, the status of individual countries
diminishes while the general decisions, especially those related to consumption of non-renewable natural
resources, are made at a global level. At the same time local decision-makers have more influence on
local structures, and choices related to basic needs are often made in a local or regional context.

The development path in our vision requires the simultaneous development of a global bio-based
economy and the introduction of distributed production models at a local level.

In a bio-based economy, material cycles are efficient and sustainable. Waste from one process
is a raw-material for another. Many technologies operate on the side flows or waste from other processes
and provide side benefits such as reduced nutrient emissions.

Note: I do NOT see the biobased economy as capable of significantly contributing to energy needs.

The future concepts
of the distributed bio-based economy are modular and multipliable. A bio-based economy
is not only a bundle of new technology and bio-related economy but also a new way of thinking
of how to live in a sustainable way. It is a cross-cutting issue having an effect on the whole society.

The Distributed Bio-Based Economy Model is glocal – both local and global. For example, global
scale energy and information grids as well as open real-time trading schemes enable distributed biobased
economy hubs to operate as a part of the global market in an optimal way.

Sometimes higher transportation costs make it more profitable to have several small plants close to
the material resources than to centralize all production in one place.
While material intensive industries locate themselves close to the resources, they can provide
additional resources for other industries that benefit from the residues of the first industries. All these
companies also need services, which create new local markets for service providers. This leads to a
situation where more and more small-scale industrial plants cluster close to each other and support
the livelihoods of small and medium sized communities.

The development of information technology and
production technologies create new markets for virtual
and distributed business models. Many services can be
provided online, and especially information services
can be produced anywhere irrespective of the location.

“Markets are open for those
who respect global needs and
support sustainable solutions.”

In the distributed bio-based economy, the winning concept is modular, multiplied,
resilient, robust and efficient; and it can be adapted to the local needs of various societies.

Logistics has an important role in the new business ecosystems. Production needs to be based
on flexible systems, where components can be produced in different locations and brought together
at the time of compilation of the final product.

Distribution is not only a geographical term but it also refers to the distribution of work and
responsibilities. One company cannot and is not supposed to try to do everything on its own, and
outsourcing will become a permanent part of new business models.

Several companies
have already utilized ICT technology to transact business especially in retail markets but more is
expected to happen. This, together with new ways of distributing the work and responsibilities, creates
opportunities for new types of actors such as integrators, intermediaries, and brokers.

From the risk management point
of view, self-sufficient systems tolerate global market disturbances better than systems that rely on
raw materials bought from global market.

However, as the
renewing capacity of biomass is limited, processes and consumption patterns, including energy efficiency,
must be very efficient.

The Bio-based economy is not only related to economy and technology but will also be part of our daily lives through land use planning and architecture such as urban
cultivation and green roofs.

I feel like dry toilets are a very good prototype for the challenges that the bioeconomy need to overcome to be successful.

Note: I don’t believe that the bioeconomy will create much opportunity in rural areas, or much effect at reversing the trend of urbanisation. People want to connect. If anything will reverse the trend of urbanisation it will be internet connectivity, cheaper data. I believe a reasonable compromise is secondary cities that allows some economy of scale for connectivity provision, that is then connected to metros via well functioning railways (that has internet on board). and well serviced last-mile infrastructure.

Van den Dool, A., E. Marchington , R. Ripken, A. Hsieh, M. Petrasova, D. Bilic, A. Idrisova, A. Pena, V. Ashraf,
N. Capelán, T. Vijitpan, C. Yao, M. Coll Besa, J. Eckert, V. Pilibaityté, S. Min, L. Lu (2009), The future is distributed:
a vision of sustainable economies, The International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics
at Lund University (IIIEE), Lund Universtiy, 56 p, ISBN: 978-91-88902-58-0. Available at: (referred 23.8.2011).

A challenge in achieving a growing bioeconomy and reduced use of fossilbased raw materials is how to increase production volumes and improve the quality of the raw materials. – Applying to sanitation is the separation of streams at source, specifically keeping urine, a good quality raw material, separate.
Dry toilets in cities have greater potential than conventional methods to contribute to urban greening, and enable urban environments for biomass production but also for environmental improvement and other ecosystem services (

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