Cirkle: an example of consom’action

Cirkle: an example of consom’action

An other 'catch-it-all'- concept with a sauce of green-washing? Not at all ! When Ben, the founder of Cirkle, started to explain me his business model of home delivery service in Brussels that sells organic and artisan food, combined with a free recycling service, I quickly understood that Cirkle is an vision of a circular economy on how families could consume food in the future. Exit the hyper-consumption of the 80s and 90s ("I consume, therefore I am"), today, people want to eat healthily, they wish to better protect the environment, fight against wastage and help society by sharing and recycling. On a more or less long term, these changes should lead to a profound transformation of the economy.

What is Cirkle?

Cirkle takes an holistic approach to sustainability and social value. They have come up with innovative ways to do things differently in the spirit of the circular economy. They are different by revolutionizing both the way you do your shopping and how to recycle your waste.

Basically it is very simple: from behind your computer, you can place an order in a fairly wide range of products: fruits and vegetables, groceries, fish, butchery, bakery, bulk products, milk, tea and many others. You can ether choose a box (e.g. fruit&veg, organic essentials, recipe kits, discovery boxes) or you can order the products separately. It's even possible to customize your box by removing the products you "don't like" or with a "no-plastic" label.

Okey, to good to be true, this is probably expensive?

I've compared the prices of a few bulk products with Le Marché des Tanneurs (one of the cheapest bio-markets of Brussels), with Natural Corner (a bio-shop in the centre) and with Delhaizes' bio (not bulk of course). An example for some basic products that should have the same price everywhere:

  • Rice, long wholegrain: Tanneurs: 3,15€/kg; Cirkle: €3,48/kg; Natural Corner: 3,90€/kg; Delhaize (bio): 2,98 €/kg
  • Couscous: Tanneurs: 2,70€/kg; Cirkle: €3,32/kg; Natural Corner: 5,20€/kg; Delhaize (bio): 4,38 €/kg
  • Bulgur: Tanneurs: don't have it; Cirkle: €2,87/kg; Natural Corner: 4,90€/kg; Delhaize (non-bio): 10,48€/kg
  • Muesli: Tanneurs: 5,34€/kg; Cirkle: €5,09/kg; Natural Corner: 5,90€/kg; Delhaize (bio): 5,38 €/kg
  • Walnuts: Tanneurs: €1,62/100g; Cirkle: €3,07/100g; Natural Corner: 2,25€/100g, Delhaize (non-bio): 2,58 €/100g

So, the conclusion for my small random selection: 3 of 5 products from Cirkle are cheaper then Delhaize bio, 4 of 5 are cheaper then Natural Corner and only once they are cheaper then Tanneurs.

Why is bio & local important?

80% of all their fresh produces comes from Belgian farms. They mainly work with farm cooperatives to buy the produce. This includes the fact that less intervenes are involved in the process. Prices are fair, the farmers are not obliged to produce exhaustive quantities (like for supermarkets) but can rather focus on quality for the price they deserve. As a lot of consumers want to trace the origin of products, it's very easy to do so online. For me that is one of the most important factors, I try to be aware before buying, having a conscious, ethical consumption. More than 90% of their products are certified organic. Many of the products are biodynamic, which is an holistic approach to sustainable and organic agriculture.

How is the approach different from GASAP?

A GASAP (Group d'Achat Solidaires de l'Agriculture Paysanne) is a group of citizens who associate directly with a farmer to buy on a regular and long-term base, and short-circuit, seasonal products. It can be vegetables, but also fruits, cheese, etc. This model helps to support local producers working in ways that respect the environment and traditional knowledge.

Cirkle offer something quite different to GASAP. The founder of Cirkle, Ben, actually admitted to be a fan of GASAP, and would encourage people to use them if they can. But for him, the reality is it doesn't suit a lot of people. He says: "For example we have a dislike option, so people can change items in their paniers. People can also order a la carte products instead of a panier, and change their order every week if they want. There is no contract with us, and people can cancel orders even the day before. Of course we also offer home delivery, which will be free from September (currently 3€). If you have the opportunity and time to buy directly from farmers, then that is the ideal solution of course."

Why would I choose Cirkle?

And here is where Ben points out an other important aspect, next to price: time. Since I'm aware of my consumption by buying only bulk and local products on the market my expenses for food reduced to 40%, while 1 year ago I spent about 70€/week now it's 40€/week. But to do so, I put a lot of effort in it by going to different bio-shops, farmers markets and by preparing my shopping bags and jars. Although I would miss the social aspects of the farmers market, yes, I think buying online, when you have a lot of work can sometimes be convenient and comfortable.

Oh no, an individual delivery by car?

Et oui! But now I'll tell you how the cirkle closes. It's not just a delivery, it's also a pick-up. Ben explains: "We operate with a proximity based routing delivery solution. This means our routes are fixed, and each new address fits into the existing routes. Customers cannot choose a delivery time, but we tell people a 1 hour ETA. This type of delivery system has been found to actually be more energy efficient than people doing their own shopping. We prefer to focus on how to utilise the spare capacity in our vans to ensure they are always full, even at the end of the day. Therefore we collect over 20 different types of household waste, and most have some kind of value. The items that can be reused are given directly to charities to be sold by them. The other items are recycled. Any money generated from the recycling also goes to charities. A few items do not have a value, but we collect for your convenience to be recycled."

At your first delivery you'll receive a recycling-kit explaining you which product you can give to Cirkle on you're next delivery. Just put your wast in the box and they will take care of recycling it correctly. Again, a very convenient way to solve the issue of recycling.

So, what do you think? Why wouldn't you wanna try it? ;)