Cradle to Cradle: Rethinking Sustainability
It is time for our civilization to rethink the way we live, work, travel, design, build and consume. To think that we are doing our part simply by driving a hybrid car and recycling our paper, bottles, and cans is a dangerous illusion. For years, environmentalists have been telling us to do more with less in order to make change happen. This is simply not enough. We are going to have to fundamentally change the way we design our products, industries and cities. Our current recycling methods are inefficient and only serve to perpetuate the “cradle-to-grave” manufacturing model that we’ve been using for hundreds of years.
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Architect William McDonough and Chemist Michael Braungart have published a revolutionary new book in which we adopt a cradle-to-cradle way of manufacturing that is as effective as nature itself in maintaining sustainability. The focus of their vision is for us to use nature itself as a model for manufacturing.
To prove their theory, Cradle to Cradle is itself printed on synthetic paper and bound into an innovative book format developed by Charles Melcher of Melcher Media. The synthetic material is made from plastic resins and organic fillers that are waterproof and extremely durable. Not only is the book recyclable by conventional means, it can also be called a ‘technical nutrient’, which is an infinitely recyclable product.
McDonough and Braungart explain why industry and environment do not need to be at odds with each other. There is no need to limit production and growth to the point where we are forced to live a more primitive organic lifestyle in order to be sustainable. Environmentalists often characterize business and growth as a destructive force, and corporations see the environmental movement as an obstacle to production and growth.
The environmental message that consumers take from all of this can be strident and depressing: stop being so bad, so materialistic, so greedy. Do whatever you can, no matter how inconvenient, to limit your consumption. By less, spend less, drive less, have fewer children — or none. Aren’t the major environmental problems today — global warming, deforestation, pollution, waste — products of your decadent Western way of life? If you are going to help save the planet, you will have to make some sacrifices, share some resources, perhaps you can go without. And fairly soon, you must face a world of limits. There is only so much the Earth can take.
On the contrary, McDonough and Braungart believe that we can still have all of our comforts and maintain a modern lifestyle. They use nature as an metaphor for how we can redesign our world to be more eco-efficient:
Consider the cherry tree: thousands of blossoms create fruit for birds, humans, and other animals, in order that one pit might eventually fall onto the ground, take root, and grow. Who would look at the ground littered with cherry blossoms and complain, How inefficient and wasteful! The tree makes copious blossoms and fruit without depleting its environment. Once they fall on the ground, their materials decompose and break down into nutrients that nourish microorganisms, insects, plants, animals, and soil. Although the tree actually makes more of its product than it needs for its own success in an ecosystem, this abundance has evolved (through millions of years of success and failure or, in business terms, R&D), to serve rich and varied purposes. In fact, the tree’s fecundity nourishes just about everything around it. What might the human built world look like if the cherry tree had produced?
This book is full of useful and inspiring thoughts about encouraging diversity and utilizing efficient energy sources. The five guiding principles encourage commitment to new paradigms, good growth instead of economic growth, continuous innovation and perfection, understanding in preparation for learning, and implementation of intergenerational responsibility. “We must ask ourselves, How can we support and perpetuate the rights of all living things to share in a world of abundance? How can we love the children of all species — not just our own — for all time?”
Sources: Cradle to Cradle