Resource Efficiency — Part of the Circular Economy

Circular World™ Media
5 min readMar 18, 2024


The slow move from energy rating labels to encouraging consumers to implement energy-saving behaviours is next up. The double whammy of climate change and resource scarcity is upon us. Whereas climate change is obvious and in our lives, unfortunately, resource scarcity still remains an unknown quantity. At this point, consumers are still shielded from this looming threat. However, a good starting point is how resource efficiency leads to a greater understanding of resource management.

What is Resource Efficiency?

Resource efficiency stands for the relationship between natural raw materials or technical-economic materials and the benefits gained from their use, whether in production or consumption. The aim is to maximize the benefits of products or services while minimizing consumption and waste. The less energy and material required to produce a product, the better.

Continued worldwide population growth is resulting in a global increase in demand for products and associated resources. Currently, our society consumes more resources than the earth can provide and renew. Improved efficiency can counteract the increasing consumption of raw materials.

The Practical Application of Resource Efficiency

Image from a presentation by Edgar Hertwich and Reid Lifset titled “Resource Efficiency and Climate Change” 2020

Although the macro view is important and relates more to circular design principles, infrastructure and industry, most resource-efficient gains will be enabled by consumers either via their purchasing power or actions in their homes.

Energy is often the first item we think of when we consider resource efficiency, as it is also the easiest for consumers to relate to via an energy rating label. Energy ratings have been around for quite a long time. California enacted the first standards at the state level in 1974. At the national level, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) was enacted in 1975, and established a US federal program consisting of test procedures, labeling, and energy targets for consumer products.

The Energy Rating label was introduced in 1986 in the Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria, and later, its use was extended to all states and territories. A mandatory national labelling scheme was agreed to in 1992

The ENERGY STAR® program was introduced in Canada in 2001 as an international partnership with the United States Environmental Protection Agency. ENERGY STAR Canada is a voluntary partnership between the Government of Canada and program participants to make high-efficiency products, homes and buildings available and visible.

Consumer uptake of energy-efficient appliances has been steadily increasing over the years. Two recent research reports on energy-efficient appliances have exploited the cost-of-living crisis as a way to encourage better use of energy, which is a quantum leap from relying on an energy rating label as the sole source of information for consumer choices.

Improving the use of energy goes far beyond the purchase of an electrical appliance based on its energy rating.

“I didn’t even realise you could buy kettles to boil water at different temperatures! I just assumed a kettle was on or off. Would I buy a kettle like that? Depends how much it is… a basic kettle is going to be £20, but a fancy model temperature one is going to be £40. So you need to know that it’s going to save you £20 over its lifetime?”

The first report, ‘ Resource Efficiency of Electrical Appliances in UK Households: Can Consumer Education Help Cut Costs Amid the Cost-of-Living Crisis?’ hones in on consumer education as the basis for improving energy efficiency. The key points are:

  • Education can be used to improve the behavioural intention of the consumer and influence action. At the same time, it is important to understand other barriers to performing resource efficiency behaviours that consumers face, which can be associated with their unique individual daily routines and other macro-level external factors.
  • Appliance design and consumer education need to be aligned to increase the uptake of resource-efficient behaviours.
  • There is an opportunity for industry to build relationships with the consumers that foster trust and loyalty beyond the point of purchase through maintenance and repair education.
  • There is a need for improving consumer education about energy efficiency and product life extension, which includes varying communication channels and standardised content.
  • Smart technology can be an enabler for energy efficiency and maintenance but is not in itself enough to guarantee resource efficiency. Smart technology can pose a problem for appliance repairability.

The second report, ‘How Efficient Appliances Could Ease Tasmania’s Cost of Living’ takes a more macro approach and considers the transition from gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as deciding factors to sway consumer choice that, ultimately, influence behaviours.

How Efficient Appliances Could Ease Tasmania’s Cost of Living’ by Jay Gordon


There are a lot of moving parts for a resource efficient world. We often believe it should start with government policy, such as Tasmania’s existing Energy Saver Loan Scheme as a driver to improve awareness and choice for energy savings. On the other end of the spectrum, we have consumers faced with the daunting task of being asked to be more energy efficient in everything from their choice of appliances all the way through to how they use them. So far, consumers have had an easy ride, leaving sustainability and circular systems as the responsibility of companies, giving them the final say. Resource efficiency brings that to an end.


Ms Adrienna Zsakay is the Founder and CEO of Circular Economy Asia Inc, and this article represents her opinions on the circular economy. Circular Economy Pick of the Week is brought to you by Circular World™ Media — a brand owned by Circular Economy Asia Inc.


“Resource efficiency — a definition: What is resource efficiency?” published by iPoint.

‘Resource Efficiency and Climate Change — Material Efficiency Strategies for a Low Carbon Future’, lead authors: Edgar Hertwich and Reid Lifset, for the UN Environment Programme and International Resource Panel, 2020

‘History and Impacts ‘ from the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

‘Energy Rating Label’ — Wikipedia

Image: Standing Fan Energy Rating — Malaysia’s state-owned electricity company, Tenaga Nasional

‘Resource Efficiency of Electrical Appliances in UK Households: Can Consumer Education Help Cut Costs Amid the Cost-of-Living Crisis?’ by Margo Reynolds, Nellie Salter, Żaneta Muranko, Emily Easman, Fiona Charnley, Ryan Nolan, Halid Abu-Bakar and Peter Hopkinson, funded by the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances and the UK Research and Innovation National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research Hub, 2023

‘How Efficient Appliances Could Ease Tasmania’s Cost of Living’ by Jay Gordon, Research Analyst, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, 2024

Originally published at



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Circular World™ Media is owned by Circular Economy Asia Incorporated. Registered in Australia, based in Malaysia. We focus on resource management & efficiency