Lawrence, KS - Events Local News Groups Contact
The Cradle-to-Cradle Alternative
By Indy Media / filmsforaction.org
Sep 18, 2008
By William McDonough & Michael Braungart. From McDonough.com:


Imagine a world in which all the things we make, use, and consume provide nutrition for nature and industry—a world in which growth is good and human activity generates a delightful, restorative ecological footprint.

While this may seem like heresy to many in the world of sustainable development, the destructive qualities of today’s cradle-to-grave industrial system can be seen as the result of a fundamental design problem, not the inevitable outcome of consumption and economic activity. Indeed, good design—principled design based on the laws of nature—can transform the making and consumption of things into a regenerative force.

This new conception of design—known as cradle-to-cradle design—goes beyond retrofitting industrial systems to reduce their harm. Conventional approaches to sustainability often make the efficient use of energy and materials their ultimate goal. While this can be a useful transitional strategy, it tends to reduce negative impacts without transforming harmful activity. Recycling carpet, for example, might reduce consumption, but if the attached carpet backing contains PVC, which most carpet backing does, the recycled product is still on a one-way trip to the landfill, where it becomes hazardous waste.

Cradle-to-cradle design, on the other hand, offers a framework in which the effective, regenerative cycles of nature provide models for wholly positive human designs. Within this framework we can create economies that purify air, land, and water, that rely on current solar income and generate no toxic waste, that use safe, healthful materials that replenish the earth or can be perpetually recycled, and that yield benefits that enhance all life.

Over the past decade, the cradle-to-cradle framework has evolved steadily from theory to practice. In the world of industry it is creating a new conception of materials and material flows. Just as in the natural world, in which one organism’s “waste” cycles through an ecosystem to provide nourishment for other living things, cradle-to-cradle materials circulate in closed-loop cycles, providing nutrients for nature or industry. This model recognizes two metabolisms within which materials flow as healthy nutrients.

First, nature’s nutrient cycles constitute the biological metabolism. Materials designed to flow optimally in the biological metabolism are biological nutrients. Products conceived as these nutrients, such as biodegradable packaging, are designed to be used and safely returned to the environment to nourish living systems. Second, the technical metabolism, designed to mirror the earth’s cradle-to-cradle cycles, is a closed-loop system in which valuable, high-tech synthetics and mineral resources—technical nutrients—circulate in a perpetual cycle of production, recovery, and remanufacture. Ideally, all the human systems that make up the technical metabolism are powered by the renewable energy of the sun.

Biological and technical nutrients have already entered the marketplace. The upholstery fabric Climatex Lifecycle is a blend of pesticide-residue-free wool and organically grown ramie, dyed and processed entirely with nontoxic chemicals. All of its product and process inputs were defined and selected for their human and ecological safety within the biological metabolism. The result: the fabric trimmings are made into felt and used by garden clubs as mulch for growing fruits and vegetables, returning the textile’s biological nutrients to the soil.

Honeywell, meanwhile, is marketing a textile for the technical metabolism, a high-quality carpet yarn called Zeftron Savant, which is made of perpetually recyclable nylon 6 fiber. Zeftron Savant is designed to be reclaimed and repolymerized—taken back to its constituent resins—to become new material for new carpets. In fact, Honeywell can retrieve old, conventional nylon 6 and transform it into Zeftron Savant, which is in effect “upcycling” rather than downcycling an industrial material. The nylon is rematerialized, not dematerialized—a true cradle-to-cradle product.

In the commercial carpet industry, material recovery systems are providing a model for the development of technical metabolisms. Shaw Industries, for example, has developed a technical nutrient carpet tile for its commercial customers. The company guarantees that all of its nylon 6 carpet fiber will be taken back and returned to nylon 6 carpet fiber, and its safe polyolefin backing returned to safe polyolefin backing. Raw material to raw material. A cradle-to-cradle cycle.

Shaw’s technical nutrient carpet tile is conceived to be a product of service, a key element of the cradle-to-cradle strategy. Products of service are durable goods, such as carpets and washing machines, designed by their manufacturer to be taken back and used again. The product provides a service to the customer while the manufacturer maintains ownership of the product’s material assets. At the end of a defined period of use, the manufacturer takes back the product and reuses its materials in another high-quality product. Widely practiced, the product-of-service concept can change the nature of consumption as human systems powered by renewable energy reuse valuable materials through many product lifecycles.

On a large scale, cradle-to-cradle thinking can transform the nature of economies. In Chicago, for example, these principles are serving as a reference point as Mayor Richard Daley strives to make the city the greenest in America, a hub of energy effectiveness and beneficial material flows.

In a cradle-to-cradle economy, cities are the principal home and source of technical nutrition—the place where metals are forged, polymers synthesized, and tractors, computers, and windmills designed and manufactured. Cities send these materials forth into the world and receive them back as they move through closed-loop cycles. The countryside, meanwhile, can be seen as the home of the biological metabolism. Materials generated there—food, wood, fibers—are created through interactions of solar energy, soil, and water and are the source of biological nutrition for rural communities and nearby cities. One of the city’s fundamental roles in this metabolism is to return biological nutrition in a safe, healthy form, say as clean fertilizer, back to the rural soil. These flows of nutrients and energy are the twin metabolisms of the living city, the engines of the vibrant economies of the future.

Even nations as vast and influential as China have adopted cradle-to-cradle strategies. Building on a 4,000-year-old tradition of sustainable agriculture, Vice Minister of Science and Technology Madame Deng Nan announced in September 2002 that China will begin to develop industries and products based on cradle-to-cradle principles. Working with the China–U.S. Center for Sustainable Development, China is already developing a cradle-to-cradle village as well as solar and wind power enterprises.

The cradle-to-cradle strategy allows us to see our designs as delightful expressions of creativity, as life-support systems in harmony with energy flows, human souls, and other living things. When that becomes the hallmark of productive economies, consumption itself will have been transformed.
0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 14,695 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Trump Is a Symptom of a Sickness That Is Raging All Across The World
1 min · 12,282 views today · This is why we are here. And this is what we need to remember. 
What Is My Activism Really About? to Love, Serve and Remember
Tim Hjersted · 5,391 views today · I have made a promise to this world that I will carry with me to my last days. It is my vow to lessen the suffering of the world while I am here - it is to ensure that every...
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · 3,846 views today · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 2,223 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Looking Forward to the Day That Nationalism Is as Reviled as Racism
Tim Hjersted · 1,784 views today · Nationalism is a form of geographical racism that makes some lives matter more than others, and explicitly justifies that logic without apology. While today, not even lying...
Why It's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound
Bethany Webster · 1,737 views today · The issue at the core of women’s empowerment is the mother wound
Stunning Photos By Alexander Semenov Showcase The Alien Beauty Of Jellyfish
Earth Porm · 998 views today · Jellyfish appear like beautiful aliens in Alexander Semenov’s photography, calling a new attraction to a magical species of marine life. Alexander Semenov is a marine...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 706 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Supporters 'Ecstatic' After Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Sentence
Nika Knight · 691 views today · Whistleblower to be released from military prison in May
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 590 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Invention of Capitalism: How a Self-Sufficient Peasantry was Whipped Into Industrial Wage Slaves
Yasha Levine · 559 views today · “…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” —Arthur Young; 1771 Our popular economic wisdom says that...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 553 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Coping With Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the White House
N Ziehl · 366 views today · I want to talk a little about narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve unfortunately had a great deal of experience with it, and I’m feeling badly for those of you who are...
Positive Thinking in a Dark Age: A Guide to Gracefully Losing Faith in a Collapsing Dominant Culture
Jim Tull · 362 views today · I recall a Buddhist parable involving a stick that appears from a distance to be a snake, causing fear to rise in the perceiver. As the perception shifts upon closer...
10 Female Revolutionaries That You Probably Didn't Learn About In History class
Kathleen Harris · 288 views today · We all know male revolutionaries like Che Guevara, but history often tends to gloss over the contributions of female revolutionaries that have sacrificed their time, efforts...
Watch How Europeans Carved Up African Land They Never Owned
56 min · 286 views today · Watch how Europeans gave away African land they never owned, then expressed anger when Africans resisted. The film is called Africa: A Voyage of Discovery, Episode 6: The...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 262 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
90 Inspiring and Visionary Films That Will Change How You See the World in Profound Ways
Tim Hjersted · 248 views today · The world today is in crisis. Everybody knows that. But what is driving this crisis? It's a story, a story that is destroying the world. It's a story about our relationship to...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 248 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
The Cradle-to-Cradle Alternative