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Thinking in circles and our approach

Thinking in circles

For centuries, the industrial “take-make-dispose” approach to production has involved extracting finite resources from the planet, using them to create consumer products and then throwing away the “waste.”

Take Make Dispose image

In contrast, a circular economy designs out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems.

Circular economy image

This concept isn’t new. It’s an approach that mimics nature, where the byproducts from one process feed into something else. A forest, for example, is a closed-loop system, where everything is biodegradable, consumed and recycled. Likewise, many traditional cultures have lived within their ecological means by recognizing that nothing is waste.

Today, a growing number of companies and governments are putting those principles to work. Now, Guelph-Wellington is one of the first industrialized communities in the world to apply a circular approach to food.

A circular food system aims to eliminate waste by keeping as much energy, nutrients and materials as possible cycling through the system—and generating value as a result. It looks at everything from how we produce food to how we distribute, sell and consume it.


To help us shape Our Food Future, we consulted extensively with community members through a “Theory of Change” process. Theory of Change engages stakeholders in thoughtful conversations about the kind of difference they want to see in the world and what they think it will take to create it. In its simplest form, Theory of Change is a series of “if-then” statements that connect the dots between potential activities and the outcomes that stakeholders want to achieve.

We used this process to develop the nine Pathfinder projects described in the pages that follow. These projects form the framework for our plans going forward and capitalize on the very best Guelph-Wellington has to offer.

This initiative was shaped by community. Now that we’ve officially launched Our Food Future, its success will depend on continuing to engage that same community, maintaining the momentum we’ve created and securing buy-in from many stakeholders to ensure the long-term sustainability of our vision.

Theory of Change diagram