C2C Cycles

Intelligent Design, of a Kind

Cradle to Cradle,” or C2C, is a cool concept that is spreading in the manufacturing world. It means looking at the big picture in designing a product, from the thing’s creation - materials and manufacturing process - to its next incarnation, because its end of life will not be in the landfill. This is a closed loop system, where, rather than things being manufactured, used, and tossed away (we know now that there is no “away”), materials are perpetually reused. Besides using natural resources (i.e. biological nutrients) this system also uses nontoxic “technical nutrients”, as there are not enough biological nutrients to support all human needs.

Barbara Hirsch

William McDonaugh, an architect, and Michael Braungart, a chemist, wrote the book Cradle to Cradle, which was published six years ago - bizarrely, but with clear intent - on plastic pages, a plastic polymer that can be used again and again when the book’s useful life is over. The book is a “manifesto calling for the transformation of human industry through ecologically intelligent design.” As for why the book is not made of paper, McDonough explains: “Imagine something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates microclimates, changes color with the seasons, and self-replicates … why don’t we knock that down and write on it!”

The authors have a C2C consulting firm with clients such as Steelcase, the U.S. Postal Service, Ford Motor Company, and China.

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