I attended a Cradle to Cradle conference at Copenhagen Business School at the end of September 2010, where I was introduced to the concept of Cradle to Cradle design. The keynote speaker was the Director of Cradle to Cradle Denmark (Vugge til Vugge) and Executive Director of EPEA. His speech about designing circular nutrient (material) flows so as to move away from the current cradle to grave nutrient (material) flow in modern day production, really got me thinking about the potential of this design concept. We were told to imagine a circular flow of nutrients some of a biological nature and others of a technical nature. The biological nutrients cycle is that of nature that we all are familiar with. The technical nutrient cycle, involves the initial extraction of the mineral (nutrient) from the earth and then this is managed and its purity conserved by design in an indefinite circular flow (closed-loop) of production, use, up-cycling, and re-fed as a nutrient (mineral) with the same level of purity as before into the same production process. An amazing vision!
In order to realize this vision current production systems require a lot of rethinking and redesigning. One could even argue that a paradigm shift is necessary. One where the concept of waste is eliminated during the design process, and products, packaging and production systems do not produce any waste. As every kilogram of industrial waste is due to an ineffective process somewhere in the production cycle. To remedy this is not an easy or simple undertaking and requires extensive and intensive analysis of the current chemical make-up of the components and production processes in use. Thereafter once the detailed current situation is known, rethinking and redesigning can begin.
I am by no way an expert on the Cradle to Cradle design concept, but find it to be so appealing and in alignment with many of my thoughts of how business and society should function that I have continued in earnest to read up more about it. Michael Braungart and William McDonough, the founders of the concept, have written a number of books on it, and I have found the reading that I have done to be both inspiring and enjoyable.
As the real beauty of the Cradle to Cradle design concept is when it is achieved and functioning in practice, then the users and consumers of these products can do so guilt free, as the material flow remains circular and thus Eco-effectiveness is achieved. In contrast to this vision, we are currently bombarded by messages of restraint, reduction and how inefficient we are in mass media, which paints a depressing picture of life and the future for all of us.
But what if there was a better way, where we could celebrate life and enjoy all things we consumed and used guilt free? I believe that if we use our intelligence and begin thinking and designing in Cradle to Cradle design terms we can find and realize a better way!
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