Architect William McDounough and partner, Chemist Michael Braungart, have collaborated on what they term “Cradle to Cradle” design, which is also the name of the book they have published (from North Point Press). Their argument is that the materials people currently recycle were never intended, or designed, to be recycled. This leads to what they have termed “downcycling”, or the notion that these materials are being degraded over time. Instead of proceeding in this manner, they have proposed designing objects with the end in mind. In other words, plan for the next life cycle of the product from the beginning. They promote zero waste and regenerative products, those whose materials can easily be used for another purpose or can provide nutrients to bolster future growth.
McDonough and Braungart have developed a certification process referred to as C2C – Cradle to Cradle – for products that have been designed with the next life cycle in mind. On the C2C site there is a list of objects that have earned various levels of certification, ranging from Basic to Platinum. Pick up their book and notice that it is not printed on paper. Using their treatise as an example, they chose a synthetic material that can be taken back by the publisher, treated with a solvent and run through the printing press for its next iteration. For more information, watch McDonough’s full speech from the 2006 Technology, Entertainment & Design (TED) conference in Monterey, CA or watch a shortened clip below.
- Eric Wilson