Cradle to Cradle (C2C)

Image credit: Michelle Kaufmann/C2C MBDC

Cradle to Cradle (2002) by McDonough and Braungart

Cradle to Cradle (as opposed to Cradle to Grave) was written by Michael Braungart, a chemist, and William McDonough, an arquitect. It presents a biomimetic approach to the design of systems and a concept that is often referred to as the next industrial revolution.

We see a world of abundance, not limits. In the midst of a great deal of talk about reducing the human ecological footprint, we offer a different vision. What if humans designed products and systems that celebrate an abundance of human creativity, culture, and productivity? That are so intelligent and safe, our species leaves an ecological footprint to delight in, not lament?

C2C models human industry on nature's processes in which materials are viewed as nutrients endlessly circulating in healthy, safe metabolisms. The authors make the distinction between two distinct systems involved in the manufacture of any product: the technical metabolism, and the biological metabolism. By keeping these two systems separate in the design of a product or project we can design for multiple lifetimes of a product, using what would ussually be considered waste product as nutrients for the manufacture of a new product. 

C2C suggests that industry must protect and enrich ecosystems and nature's biological metabolism while also maintaining safe, productive technical metabolism for the high-quality use and circulation of organic and synthetic materials. Put simply, it is a holistic economic, industrial and social framework that seeks to create systems that are not just efficient but waste-free by design. The model in its broadest sense is not limited to industrial design and manufacturing; it can be applied to many different aspects of human civilization such as urban environments, buildings, economics and social systems. This book should be required reading for all architects, engineers, urban planners, policy-makers, designers, businessmen, or simply anyone alive in the 21st century. 

Our concept of eco-effectiveness means working on the right things--on the right products and services and systems--instead of making the wrong things less bad. 

For a quick (20 min) introduction to C2C, watch William McDonough's fantastic TED presentation about the wisdom of Cradle to Cradle Design.

Waste = Food (Documentary) by Rob van Hattum

Cradle to Cradle design begins with the premise that waste is merely a human-made concept, and need not exist at all. Waste, economically seen, has no value, and it is antieconomic to produce something with no value. McDonough and Braungart show how industrial waste can become food that same industry. The film shows how Braungart and Mcdonough's "intelligent product system," utilizing completely non-toxic and sustainable production methods, has been adapted by major corporations, visiting a Swiss textile factory, a German clothing manufacturer, the Nike shoe headquarters, a U.S. furniture manufacturer, the Ford Motor Company, and a government housing project in China. The manufacturers discuss the concept of "eco-effectiveness," designing for eco-safety as well as cost efficiency, in their respective industries. An amazing story that will definitely make you see differently the way we make things.