November 6, 2008
How can we avoid environmental disaster? Nowadays, in the home, most of us do our bit: we recycle. But what about industry, where the real damage is done? The strategy is the same: ‘reduce, resize, reuse’ – we try to minimize the damage. But there is a limitation to this well-intentioned approach: it maintains the one-way, ‘cradle-to-grave’ manufacturing model of the Industrial Revolution, the very model that creates immense amounts of waste and pollution in the first place. What we need is a major rethink, a new approach which directly combats the problem rather than slowly perpetuating it.
An exciting, simple and groundbreaking new vision, Cradle to Cradle offers this approach. With clear, accessible – even humorous – arguments, celebrated chemist Michael Baungart and inspirational architect William McDonough challenge the set-in notion that human industry must damage the world. They look to nature and find a production system we can follow, a system of abundance rather than reduction, in which waste equals food. They show how we can mimic nature’s model to our commercial and environmental advantage, demonstrating how products can be designed as biological and technical nutrients that will continually circulate as pure and valuable materials, eradicating the need to ‘recycle’ – really downcycle – products into low-grade materials and uses.
Cradle to Cradle‘s theories have been put into practice across the world and will shape our future – they are implemented by major governments, big corporations, small, innovative independent businesses and university science departments, and are given high-profile backing by environmentalists and celebrity activists. This updated edition is essential reading, a bold, practical and overwhelmingly positive manifesto for an environmentally prosperous future, a world where we can make maximum profit from nature without destroying it.
Michael Braungart was in the front rank of 1960s scientists who addressed environmental issues and while he was a chemistry student at Hanover University he founded the chemistry division of Greenpeace, and was one of the founders of Germany’s Green Party. He has always worked ‘for himself’ and set up his Hamburg research company, EPEA, in 1988. It was when he established a New York office for EPEA that he met Bill McDonough, and together they created an American company, MBDC, in 1995. Michael has a life-long professorship at the University of Luneburg in chemistry and process engineering, and in 2008 he took the joint chair created for him at Erasmus University in Rotterdam and in Delft, in both industrial ecology and Cradle to Cradle management for companies. He continues to publish as a chemist and to speak widely as Braungart Consulting.
William McDonough is an architect and founding partner of William McDonough + Partners, which specializes in architecture and community design and has studios in Charlottesville, Virginia, and San Francisco. In 1996, he received the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development. In 1999 Time magazine recognized him as a ‘Hero for the Planet ‘, stating that ‘his utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that… is changing the design of the world.’ Time again recognized Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart as ‘Heroes of the Environment’ in October 2007. He was elected a 2008 International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He is on the management committee of the University of Cambridge’s Business and the Environment Programme, which is steered by the Prince of Wales, and on the China-US Center for Sustainable Development.