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Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things [Paperback]

William McDonough , Michael Braungart
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 22 2002
A manifesto for a radically different philosophy and practice of manufacture and environmentalism

"Reduce, reuse, recycle" urge environmentalists; in other words, do more with less in order to minimize damage. As William McDonough and Michael Braungart argue in their provocative, visionary book, however, this approach perpetuates a one-way, "cradle to grave" manufacturing model that dates to the Industrial Revolution and casts off as much as 90 percent of the materials it uses as waste, much of it toxic. Why not challenge the notion that human industry must inevitably damage the natural world, they ask.

In fact, why not take nature itself as our model? A tree produces thousands of blossoms in order to create another tree, yet we do not consider its abundance wasteful but safe, beautiful, and highly effective; hence, "waste equals food" is the first principle the book sets forth. Products might be designed so that, after their useful life, they provide nourishment for something new-either as "biological nutrients" that safely re-enter the environment or as "technical nutrients" that circulate within closed-loop industrial cycles, without being "downcycled" into low-grade uses (as most "recyclables" now are).

Elaborating their principles from experience (re)designing everything from carpeting to corporate campuses, the authors make an exciting and viable case for change.

Frequently Bought Together

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things + The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability--Designing for Abundance + Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature
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From Amazon

Paper or plastic? Neither, say William McDonough and Michael Braungart. Why settle for the least harmful alternative when we could have something that is better--say, edible grocery bags! In Cradle to Cradle, the authors present a manifesto calling for a new industrial revolution, one that would render both traditional manufacturing and traditional environmentalism obsolete. Recycling, for instance, is actually "downcycling," creating hybrids of biological and technical "nutrients" which are then unrecoverable and unusable. The authors, an architect and a chemist, want to eliminate the concept of waste altogether, while preserving commerce and allowing for human nature. They offer several compelling examples of corporations that are not just doing less harm--they're actually doing some good for the environment and their neighborhoods, and making more money in the process. Cradle to Cradle is a refreshing change from the intractable environmental conflicts that dominate headlines. It's a handbook for 21st-century innovation and should be required reading for business hotshots and environmental activists. --Therese Littleton

From Publishers Weekly

Environmentalists are normally the last people to be called shortsighted, yet that's essentially what architect McDonough and chemist Braungart contend in this clarion call for a new kind of ecological consciousness. The authors are partners in an industrial design firm that devises environmentally sound buildings, equipment and products. They argue that conventional, expensive eco-efficiency measures things like recycling or emissions reduction are inadequate for protecting the long-term health of the planet. Our industrial products are simply not designed with environmental safety in mind; there's no way to reclaim the natural resources they use or fully prevent ecosystem damage, and mitigating the damage is at best a stop-gap measure. What the authors propose in this clear, accessible manifesto is a new approach they've dubbed "eco-effectiveness": designing from the ground up for both eco-safety and cost efficiency. They cite examples from their own work, like rooftops covered with soil and plants that serve as natural insulation; nontoxic dyes and fabrics; their current overhaul of Ford's legendary River Rouge factory; and the book itself, which will be printed on a synthetic "paper" that doesn't use trees. Because profitability is a requirement of the designs, the thinking goes, they appeal to business owners and obviate the need for regulatory apparatus. These shimmery visions can sound too good to be true, and the book is sometimes frustratingly short on specifics, particularly when it comes to questions of public policy and the political interests that might oppose widespread implementation of these designs. Still, the authors' original concepts are an inspiring reminder that humans are capable of much more elegant environmental solutions than the ones we've settled for in the last half-century.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
In the spring of 1912, one of the largest moving objects ever created by human beings left Southampton, England, and began gliding toward New York. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended! June 6 2004
This is an extraordinary and unlikely book. It is not printed on paper, but on a waterproof polymer with the heft of good paper and more strength, a substance that reflects the right amount of light, yet holds the ink fast. It seems like an impossible fantasy, but so does much of what the authors propose about design and ecology. They speak with the calm certainty of the ecstatic visionary. Could buildings generate oxygen like trees? Could running shoes release nutrients into the earth? It seems like science fiction. Yet, here is this book, on this paper. The authors make a strong case for change, and just when you're about to say, "if only," they cite a corporation that is implementing their ideas. However, it's hard to believe their concepts would work on a large scale, in the face of powerful economic disincentives. We believe authors do aim some of their criticism at obsolete marketing and manufacturing philosophies, but the overall critique is well worth reading.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking...not without shortcomings March 10 2003
McDonough & Braungart are obviously very talented guys. This book is harshly honest as they don't spare the rod in respect to either full-out industrial capitalists or eco-efficiency proponents.
However, I had three issues with this book:
1) It could have been a lot more throught-provoking if the authors had organized the book better. Seriously, it takes 80 or so pages before you get a handle on the author's true point of view. They spend every single word until that point debunking all other approaches in the field. I wish they had interspersed it with their ideas. But they keep their hand hidden until that point. I found it frustrating.
2) There's a big deal made of the book itself, and its 'upcycle potential.' All well and good, but can I point out a rather annoying side-effect? This is a difficult book to read...I mean from an ergonomic perspective. You just can't keep the thing open. And as far as reading it on a bookholder when you're working out: forget it. It will not lie flat. I realize this is an insipid criticism, but this technology is not yet ready for prime-time, in my opinion.
3) The book needs to be more quantitative. Only in the last chapter do we get any hint of realism, when the authors tell you about their work with Ford's River Rouge plant. Up until that point, there were some hints dropped here and there, most notably about the Herman Miller office the duo built. I'm sure they've got reams of quantitative evidence to support their theories. For some reason, they made a decision not to present it, and I think it hurts the book.
Still, depsite these comments, I think 'Cradle to Cradle' is worth your time.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Visionary Environmentalism April 27 2002
This doesn't feel like a book - literally. It's a different size and shape, the pages are thick, the thing feels significantly heavier than it looks, and it's waterproof.
The design of the book is making a point also made in the text of the book: the current state of recycling generally turns higher quality products into lower quality ones useful only for purposes other than the original product, and then eventually discards them. This is not recycling; it's slow motion waste.
"Cradle to Cradle," the object, is intended to be easily and completely recyclable into a new book of the same quality.
"Cradle to cradle," the phrase, is contrasted to "cradle to grave."
"Cradle to Cradle," the text, argues in favor of making all human productions either recyclable in the way this book is or completely biodegradable so that they can be used as fertilizer.
In the future envisioned and partially created and described by this pair of authors, packaging will be tossed on the ground in response to signs reading "Please litter!" Appliances will be leased and returned to manufacturers to be completely recycled. Objects that must contain both biodegradable and inorganic recyclable elements will be easily separable into those respective parts: you'll toss the soles of your shoes into the garden and give the uppers back to the shoemaker. And the water coming out of factories will be cleaner than what came in, motivating the factory owners to reuse it and eliminating the need for the government to test its toxicity.
These authors teemed up on the 1991 Hannover Principles to guide the design of the 2000 World's Fair. McDonough has an architecture firm in Charlottesville, Va.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ideas April 25 2004
This book is a sometimes interesting, often meandering treatise on design. The authors, and American architect and a German chemist, have a very sincere desire to realign the world of design of objects and buildings so that they contribute to the betterment of the environment rather than destroy it. The title of the book "Cradle to Cradle" encapsulates their goal of designing objects that when they are no longer needed, naturally become useful inputs for the production of other objects rather than getting sent to the grave (or buried in a landfill). For example, they would like to see the creation of food packaging that could be thrown on the ground when the contents are consumed and would become fertilizer rather than non-biodegradable litter. (By this measure, the women concessionaires selling steamed rice treats in Indonesian trains are masters of design. The rice is both steamed and packaged in banana leafs, which are simply thrown out the train windows once the rice is consumed. But this practice also creates enormous problems- -since Indonesians have been accustomed to using such environmentally beneficial packaging for generations, they assume that "modern" packaging can be discarded in the same manner, much to the detriment of the Indonesian countryside. If you are living in a world of mixed packaging, some of which can be thrown out the window, and some of which must be discarded by other means, it's hard to keep straight which stuff goes where. That's a vital cultural issue that the authors don't explore here.)
McDounough and Braungart list the goals for their design program.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful
The ideas presented inform us of what is currently happening to address myriad problems across the world, but provides a starting point for new and creative thought, both as... Read more
Published 15 months ago by riotthill
2.0 out of 5 stars This is an AUDIO version of the book
This is an amazing and transformative book. I ordered it for my boyfriend for Christmas and when it arrived found out it was an AUDIO Book. Read more
Published on Jan. 10 2012 by Bushbaby
5.0 out of 5 stars A practical approach to solving environmental issues in a consumer...
The book is easy to read and very imformative. If manufacturers could apply this approach, the planet may actually survive the impacts of consumerism. Read more
Published on Dec 1 2009 by I. Ellis
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic for any Environmentalist's Library
Cradle to Cradle is the most intelligent book on environmentalism I have ever read, by far.

The most immediately impressive thing about Cradle to Cradle is the material... Read more
Published on Sept. 10 2009 by Mark Cazakoff
5.0 out of 5 stars As old as climate change
The authors have been talking about waste=food as long as the climate change people, and once you internalize the concepts of the two you can't help but understand that yes,... Read more
Published on Sept. 5 2009 by tonzito
4.0 out of 5 stars Every student of design should read this book
I am a graduate student in a school of architecture that talks alot about doing 'sustainable design' and the 'green' architecture that has become a fad of late. Read more
Published on March 5 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't judge a book by its cover
The most compelling aspect of this book is the fact that it is a Durabook, printed on recyclable plastic "paper" that saves trees and results in waterproof pages so that... Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2004 by James Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars environment vs economic arguments: obsolete
I would like us to prepare our minds to begin working together to rebuild our world. This is the magnitude of Cradle to Cradle and eco-effectiveness. Read more
Published on Jan. 16 2004 by Aaron Vallejo
5.0 out of 5 stars A guide to CHANGING things, not just making them less bad.
This is one of those rare but valuable books that emphasizes the role of perception and beliefs in how we interact with the natural world. Read more
Published on June 22 2003 by Krystle,
5.0 out of 5 stars "Less" is sinister
After hearing some references to the book, one being it's relation to Ford's Model U concept vehicle, I was curious to read it. Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2003 by M. Caldwell
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