cradle to cradle
in 2002 architect william mcdonough and chemist michael braugart published my favorite book, cradle to cradle: remaking the way we make things. if you’ve never read this book, it’s a must read. william mcdonough is an architect of william mcdonough + partners who has been focusing on the ultimate sustainable projects for the better part of a decade. his partner, a chemist named michael braungart, is a partner in mcdonough braungart design chemistry, a firm focusing on designing super-sustainable manufacturing processes and products. cradle to cradle is a manifesto of sorts calling for the end of our current highly unsustainable manufacturing and building processes, or a system of living the authors dubbed cradle to grave. mcdonough and braungart champion an idea in which our lifestyles, manufacturing, and building techniques are shifted to a cradle to cradle system. this means rather than producing, using, and discarding objects we should produce, use, and recycle to be reused again; there would be no true death, just rebirth. it is important to note here that mcdonough is not talking about recycling as we think of it now. that process is more akin to downcycling, in which dissimilar materials are combined and melted down into less valuable materials that can never truly be reused. in a cradle to cradle system materials would fall into one of two categories. first, biological nutrients, these are materials that are completely inert and organic. sustainably produced they can easily decompose without harm to the planet (this means these materials could safely be thrown out/buried with no harm). second, technical nutrients, these are high grade materials that would be circulated through closed loop cycles. these cycles keep high-grade similar materials together so as to retain their original value, essentially a viable and true recycling program (or even upcycling). these ideas are well developed, extremely rational, and much needed. mcdonough’s book very eloquently puts our current means of using/abusing this planet into the grave context that it deserves. however, the positive solutions he offers are something we should all be striving for. as mcdonough posits in the book, “what would it look like if we were 100% good” (as opposed to being merely less bad).