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The Upcycle

Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance

By William McDonough and Michael Braungart
9-minute read
Audio available
The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

The Upcycle (2013) explains that eco-consciousness and economics needn’t be at odds. In fact, ecological sustainability is good economics, and humans can nurture the planet by learning from nature and starting a green revolution.

  • Proponents of the “green movement”
  • Eco-conscious business owners

William McDonough and Michael Braungart entered the international stage with their first book, Cradle to Cradle, which explores how economics can complement a holistic view of nature. They’ve advised multiple powerful corporations, and Bill Clinton was such a fan of The Upcycle that he wrote the foreword.

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The Upcycle

Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance

By William McDonough and Michael Braungart
  • Read in 9 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 5 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance by William McDonough and Michael Braungart
Synopsis

The Upcycle (2013) explains that eco-consciousness and economics needn’t be at odds. In fact, ecological sustainability is good economics, and humans can nurture the planet by learning from nature and starting a green revolution.

Key idea 1 of 5

Nature teaches environmental care. It all begins with upcycling.

Climate change is perhaps the biggest problem ever caused by human activity. We’ve all heard about or witnessed the effects: rapidly shrinking rainforests, cataclysmic weather, melting ice caps.

So, how to solve this problem?

Some people argue that humanity needs to disengage from nature – a strategy that, actually, isn’t very effective. In fact, a hands-off approach to the natural world is not an ecological way of engaging with the world.

That’s because influencing nature doesn’t necessarily mean destroying it. There are countless ways that we can live in harmony with the environment.

What if we think of the entire natural world as a garden. Just as gardeners care for and cultivate each plant, helping it survive and flourish, we can care for and cultivate the entirety of the natural world.

It’s just a matter of building stable, productive environments that give flora and fauna the best chance of survival.

And we can learn to do this from the best teacher out there: nature herself. One lesson is of particular importance. We’ve got to upcycle – that is, recycle waste products to produce something new. Think of how the natural world deals with feces, for instance: once they hit the soil, they’re acted upon by micro- and macroorganisms and, eventually, they’re turned into humus, a nutrient-rich substance that feeds other forms of life, like mushrooms.

Not just that, but nature can even make productive use of dangerous gases. For instance, take CO2, the gas that plays a fundamental role in global warming. Well, it’s actually totally normal for animals to produce CO2, and many organisms produce it simply by breathing out. Plants then turn it into oxygen for animals to breathe back in, thereby completing the cycle. So, some CO2 emissions aren’t dangerous. In fact, they’re a key part of nature’s process.

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