Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

In Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart present an integration of design and science that provides enduring benefits for society from safe materials, water and energy in circular economies and eliminates the concept of waste.

The book puts forward a design framework characterized by three principles derived from nature:

Everything is a resource for something else. In nature, the “waste” of one system becomes food for another. Everything can be designed to be disassembled and safely returned to the soil as biological nutrients, or re-utilized as high quality materials for new products as technical nutrients without contamination.

Use clean and renewable energy. Living things thrive on the energy of current solar income. Similarly, human constructs can utilize clean and renewable energy in many forms—such as solar, wind, geothermal, gravitational energy and other energy systems being developed today—thereby capitalizing on these abundant resources while supporting human and environmental health.

Celebrate diversity. Around the world, geology, hydrology, photosynthesis and nutrient cycling, adapted to locale, yield an astonishing diversity of natural and cultural life. Designs that respond to the challenges and opportunities offered by each place fit elegantly and effectively into their own niches.

Rather than seeking to minimize the harm we inflict, Cradle to Cradle reframes design as a positive, regenerative force—one that creates footprints to delight in, not lament. This paradigm shift reveals opportunities to improve quality, increase value and spur innovation. It inspires us to constantly seek improvement in our designs, and to share our discoveries with others.

Designing the Future

A Future by Design

Are you prepared to design the future?

Although many of us feel we can prepare for our future by thinking, acting, and learning using present methods and values, nothing is farther from the truth – especially in today’s rapidly changing world. A newborn child enters a world not of his or her own making. Each succeeding generation inherits the values, accomplishments, hopes, successes, and failings of previous generations. And they inherit the results of the decisions made by those generations.

For the hundreds of thousands of years of human existence when technologies were simple or non-existent, this may have had little impact on human life and the earth that sustains it. Each generation of hunters and gatherers, then plowmen and pioneers, passed on tools to the next generation to help them survive. Change from one generation to the next was slow and hardly noticeable. In those days there was little understanding of science and how things worked, and explanations were not scientific.

This is no longer the case in today’s high-tech world where a change that affects millions may happen in a matter of seconds. A child born today inherits a world vastly different from that of its parent’s generation, let alone that from centuries ago. Previous generations left a legacy of, exploitation, occupation, and irrelevant values that present great challenges, but also opportunities to the people of today.

The application of scientific principles, for better or worse, accounts for every single advance that has improved people’s lives. Important documents and proclamations have been issued granting rights and privileges to members of societies, but at the heart of human progress – or destruction – is the rock-solid foundation of science.

For generations past it was impossible to direct the future much beyond the present moment, and forecasts of the future were based on non- scientific methods. Prophets and sages presented visions of the future based on dreams, hallucinations, religious fervor, divination of animal parts, crystal balls, etc. Some may even have been accurate, but this was more because of luck than because of any direct channel to the supernatural.

Now satellites circle the globe beaming down information in fractions of a second about everything that impacts our lives. This information is very valuable for projecting weather patterns, high and low points, geological hot and cold spots, where people live, and the warming of the planet. This has given us, for the first time, the ability to monitor the health of the planet, which many scientists see as in serious, if not critical, condition.

In a single day, trillions of bits of scientific data zip through cyberspace at light-speed, making a high-tech civilization possible. While physical science and technology silently direct much of the action, millions of people around the globe still practice pseudo-science, using fortune- tellers, seers, and philosophers for their daily direction. Many world leaders regularly consult psychics, mediums, and astrologers for guidance in decisions that determine the fate of millions.

Present human activity and its consequences does not have to be shaped by the needs and values of our ancestors. In fact, it must not be. For instance, armed conflict between nations is still seen by many as the only way to settle differences. It is especially promoted by those who profit handsomely from the sale of armaments. This is now totally unacceptable and dangerous because of war’s extreme human and environmental costs.

A militant viewpoint is obsolete once we view the world as a whole interrelated system with all its people as one family. Managing accelerating changes in technology and managing ourselves require new outlooks and approaches. This is now both necessary and possible because of technological change.

These lessons are designed to challenge the reader to direct the future; not just one’s own, but that of society