29 November 2007


In terms of radical ecological innovation, the concept of Cradle-to-Cradle could be at the top of the list. Essentially, the concept is that a product can come from the earth and return to the earth with no impact. Not reduced impact, not limited impact, not delayed impact – no impact. Imagine industrial production becoming a part of the natural cycle. Imagine industry taking its inspiration from nature, where waste becomes raw material. William McDonough and Michael Braungart dare to do just that.

I learned about this concept two nights ago while watching some far-too-late-night TV. Blame the jet lag, or you can thank it. Tegenlicht was showing a follow-up to a show that it aired in October 2006, Trash=Food, which described McDonough and Braungart’s ideas. A year and a bit later and the concept of Cradle-to-Cradle has taken the Netherlands by storm. No Maeslantkering necessary, this is a flood of ideas that the lowlands is pleased to welcome.

In case you don’t watch Dutch documentaries easily, you can check out their book, not surprisingly entitled, Cradle-to-Cradle (2002). True to their principles, the book, currently in its fifth printing, is printed on tree-less paper. According to Mcdonough’s website, the book is a “manifesto calling for the transformation of human industry through ecologically intelligent design.” I like the strong language – they want a transformation, not change. In an interview, Braungart said they want to move beyond corporate goals to reduce waste by 20% and challenge themselves (they have their own design company) to achieve 0% waste. Do you hear voices singing praises, too?

In case you think this idea is to big or wild to be accomplished, they have plenty of examples. These gentlemen are not just idealists, they're out to make a living, too. On their website, you can find links to companies and products that have achieved Cradle-to-Cradle certification. You knew something like certification would have to be part of the package, but it makes for interesting surfing. Most pleasing is the fact that there are some big companies on the list, including the US Postal Service!

Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to read the book yet, or even get my hands on a copy. The bibliophile in me really wants to know what a paperless, tree-less book feels like! But it has gone on my reading list, meaning I am allowed to buy it one day. In the meantime, I want to spread the word. This is the kind of radical and innovative thinking that inspires me. There is hope.

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