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Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things Paperback – April 22, 2002
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Paper or plastic? Neither, say William McDonough and Michael Braungart. Why settle for the least harmful alternative when we could have something that is better--say, edible grocery bags! In Cradle to Cradle, the authors present a manifesto calling for a new industrial revolution, one that would render both traditional manufacturing and traditional environmentalism obsolete. Recycling, for instance, is actually "downcycling," creating hybrids of biological and technical "nutrients" which are then unrecoverable and unusable. The authors, an architect and a chemist, want to eliminate the concept of waste altogether, while preserving commerce and allowing for human nature. They offer several compelling examples of corporations that are not just doing less harm--they're actually doing some good for the environment and their neighborhoods, and making more money in the process. Cradle to Cradle is a refreshing change from the intractable environmental conflicts that dominate headlines. It's a handbook for 21st-century innovation and should be required reading for business hotshots and environmental activists. --Therese Littleton
From Publishers Weekly
Environmentalists are normally the last people to be called shortsighted, yet that's essentially what architect McDonough and chemist Braungart contend in this clarion call for a new kind of ecological consciousness. The authors are partners in an industrial design firm that devises environmentally sound buildings, equipment and products. They argue that conventional, expensive eco-efficiency measures things like recycling or emissions reduction are inadequate for protecting the long-term health of the planet. Our industrial products are simply not designed with environmental safety in mind; there's no way to reclaim the natural resources they use or fully prevent ecosystem damage, and mitigating the damage is at best a stop-gap measure. What the authors propose in this clear, accessible manifesto is a new approach they've dubbed "eco-effectiveness": designing from the ground up for both eco-safety and cost efficiency. They cite examples from their own work, like rooftops covered with soil and plants that serve as natural insulation; nontoxic dyes and fabrics; their current overhaul of Ford's legendary River Rouge factory; and the book itself, which will be printed on a synthetic "paper" that doesn't use trees. Because profitability is a requirement of the designs, the thinking goes, they appeal to business owners and obviate the need for regulatory apparatus. These shimmery visions can sound too good to be true, and the book is sometimes frustratingly short on specifics, particularly when it comes to questions of public policy and the political interests that might oppose widespread implementation of these designs. Still, the authors' original concepts are an inspiring reminder that humans are capable of much more elegant environmental solutions than the ones we've settled for in the last half-century.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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They rage against energy efficient buildings for having “poor indoor air quality”, showing their lack of knowledge with modern ventilation equipment. They decry cellulose insulation (widely considered the greenest option), without proposing any alternatives. They instead fluff projects they’ve worked on without giving specific details about what made them so great.
One really nonsense line is: “Instead of releasing the carbon the car produces when burning gasoline as carbon dioxide, why not store it as carbon black in canisters that could be sold to rubber manufacturers?” The authors don’t seem to understand pretty basic differences (like CO2 vs elemental carbon), which doesn’t inspire confidence in the rest of their writing. Unclear from this if the authors understand the mechanism for global warming and why transportation is such a large contributor.
The basic thesis is that we should make products that can be laterally recycled into new versions of the same product. This idea is very unique and interesting, and it’s a shame the authors spend very little time there.
If you are interested in green design, energy efficiency, keeping the earth a habitable place for humans to live, this book isn’t really worth reading.
The first thing you notice is that this book is rather heavy compared to normal books its size. This is explained by the authors trying to live their philosophy by creating a book out of a material that can be truly recycled as opposed to current paper which, while it can be reused, requires several unattractive processes and is not endlessly repeatable.
The book makes many other decent arguments for why we should think of products as temporary services rather than things we own and therefore dispose of when we are done. The book makes a case for current recycling (or down-cycling as they call it) measures as being okay - as long as it is thought of as no more than a temporary stop-gap measure to be used while we pursue true technical and regular nutrient recycling.
The only improvement I would like to see is more in-depth examples of how this process has been applied to commercial processes. They kept going back to the same one or two examples and I think there are more out there and I suspect by the time this book in republished there could be even more worthy examples.
I've read segments of this book, excited to finally read it in its entirety. This book is a staple of sustainability literature, especially for product designers. Give it a read!
The practice is that this book can't be turned into any other book. No one is making further books with this synthetic (and superior and cradle to cradle planned) paper. And over the years the only product that ordinary folks ever use that is certified as cradle to cradle are the postal service's priority mail boxes. It's not a success across the board, just here and there. The practice of cradle to cradle has been a failure. Sorry! Wish it weren't the case, but it is.
Maybe someday we'll say, now everything is made cradle to cradle, can you imagine that it took so long to catch on?