Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things Paperback – Apr 22 2002
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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.
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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.
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.Read more ›
The most immediately impressive thing about Cradle to Cradle is the material itself. The fact that this book is not printed on paper gives some visceral justification to the theories inside.
However, much more impressive is the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) philosophy. Traditional recycling is flawed - instead, we need to change the way we design things. A cradle to grave philosophy is no longer necessary. We have the technology now to make much of our stuff travel in closed loops, being infinitely reused. We can't keep throwing things 'away' forever - sooner or later we'll run out of 'away'.
I love the pragmatism of Cradle to Cradle. When confronting problems of this scale, its easy to get lost or give up, but the authors instead attempt to provide a way to get there from here, acknowledging that it is unlikely that large numbers of people will decide to stop consuming, so instead focus their energies on making that consumption no longer damaging.
I bought a copy for my Engineering brother, and I hope that every single one of his colleagues reads it.
Most recent customer reviews
brilliant book, I just bought this second copy to give as a gift. if intelligent and sustainable design floats your boat then this is a must read.Published 7 months ago by Karim
This book was one of our text books for a master course on sustainable design. It totally changed my mind about sustainability and introduced me to the wonderful philosophy of... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Danny Chan
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 morePublished on June 16 2013 by riotthill
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 morePublished on Jan. 10 2012 by Bushbaby
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 morePublished on Dec 1 2009 by I. Ellis
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 morePublished on Sept. 5 2009 by tonzito
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... Read morePublished on April 25 2004 by Amazon Customer
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