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Cradle to Cradle

Remaking the Way We Make Things

By William McDonough and Michael Braungart
13-minute read
Audio available
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

Cradle to Cradle (2009) exposes the fundamental flaws of manufacturing and the damage it inflicts upon our environment, even as we attempt to be eco-friendly. These blinks also introduce you to ways in which you can make a positive impact on the planet, and guide you through the process of rethinking your business in order to become eco-efficient.

  • Businesses looking to become more environmentally friendly
  • People interested in the impact of industry today
  • Anyone curious about alternative approaches to doing business

Michael Braungart is a German chemist who holds a chair in industrial ecology and Cradle to Cradle management at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. He is a visiting professor at TU Delft, The Netherlands. He was one of the founders of Germany’s Green Party.

William McDonough is an American architect and founding partner of William McDonough + Partners. In 1996, he received the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development. In 1999, Time recognized him as a “Hero for the Planet.”

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Cradle to Cradle

Remaking the Way We Make Things

By William McDonough and Michael Braungart
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart
Synopsis

Cradle to Cradle (2009) exposes the fundamental flaws of manufacturing and the damage it inflicts upon our environment, even as we attempt to be eco-friendly. These blinks also introduce you to ways in which you can make a positive impact on the planet, and guide you through the process of rethinking your business in order to become eco-efficient.

Key idea 1 of 8

Industry is fundamentally damaging to the environment.

During the Industrial Revolution, man strove to achieve production that was ever more efficient and profitable. Who considered the ecological consequences of this? Nobody. It was widely believed that humans had access to an endless supply of resources from Mother Earth, that the environment was a bottomless provider that simply wouldn’t degrade over time.

Today, industry still functions as a linear system. It goes one way, from the producer to the consumer to the garbage, without anything going back to nature. Think about it: What do you own that isn’t designed to be thrown away when you’re finished with it?

In this way, industrial production relies on the cradle-to-grave model, where resources are extracted, shaped into products, sold and eventually disposed of in a “grave” of some kind. Just consider how it’s often more expensive to repair a damaged item, like the broken shoe, than to buy a new one.

Corporations also design products and processes for worldwide use with a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, people in places in the USA with soft water, like the Northwest, only need small amounts of detergent to do their laundry, while in the Southwest, where there is hard water, more detergent is needed. However, major soap manufacturers choose to save money by producing a strong detergent that caters to the hardest water, despite the environmental damage this creates.

Further examples of the way humans take from nature on a massive scale include mining, burning fossil fuels and land-clearing for monocultural agricultural properties, where natural diversity is destroyed to make way for a single crop that’s cultivated for our consumption. At every level, our industry is built in a way that reflects the idea that nature is not something we work with, but rather something that exists for our use, and this fundamental principle wreaks incredible damage.

But we’ve made progress, haven’t we? We’re aware that our environment needs taking care of. However, our industries have yet to approach the problem of pollution with the effort that it really requires. Find out more in the next blink.

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