Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, offers an alternative to the linear cradle-to-grave industrial model of extract, manufacture, use, and dispose of.
It introduces the concept of cradle-to-cradle where at the end of their useful life, products are not thrown away but become input for new products.
The authors convey their vision of an industrial re-revolution through bits of history, stories, and examples.
“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?”
Introduction: This Book is Not a Tree
The book itself embodies its theme of cradle-to-cradle. It is made of synthetic “paper” that is waterproof, durable and can be broken down and remade as “paper” or other products again and again.
Chapter 1: A Question of Design
The first chapter provides a historical perspective of the Industrial Revolution and the authors’ insights into the industrial cradle-to-grave system.
Chapter 2: Why Being “Less Bad” Is No Good
Many if not most people probably think of reducing, reusing, and recycling as good, and they are, to a certain extent. Being “less bad” is not the same as doing good. Reducing toxic emissions isn’t the same as eliminating them.
Chapter 3: Eco-Effectiveness
Eco-effectiveness is going beyond efficiency and eco-friendliness, and reimagining not only products themselves, but the way they are made, and what they will become in the future.
Chapter 4: Waste Equals Food
In nature, the concept of waste does not exist or as the authors put it “waste equals food.” For example, a leaf falls from a tree on the ground and becomes food for the organisms that live in the soil which in turn nourish the tree.
Chapter 5: Respect Diversity
Using the “triple bottom line” approach to ecology, economy, and equity, a business executive might ask the following about a new product idea, “Will it impact the local river?”, “How much will it cost to make?”, and “Are the people making it being paid a living wage?”
Chapter 6: Putting Eco-Effectiveness into Practice
In the final chapter, William McDonough talks about his work with Ford Motor Company to redesign and renovate their gigantic River Rouge factory in Dearborn, Michigan.
The Bottom Line
The authors, William McDonough, an architect by trade, and Michael Braungart, a chemist, met in New York in 1991, and immediately struck up a working relationship which later led to forming McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry. Both are recognized as experts in their fields and have hands on experience putting cradle-to-cradle concepts into practice.
One won’t find a step-by-step guide to eco-effectiveness in Cradle to Cradle.
Everyone can find inspiration and hope in this book.