"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 redesigning everything from carpeting to corporate campuses, the authors make an exciting and viable case for change.
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From an engineering prospective, it's an enlightening introduction to eco-efficiency
The chair you are sitting in could be releasing harmful toxins into the air and onto your skin, damaging your health and the health of your family. In the book Cradle To Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, architect William McDonough and German chemist Michael Braungart delve into the profoundly desperate situation that is choking our planet. The two authors seek to evolve the standard—and far too common—"cradle-to-grave" model into the eco-efficient "cradle-to-cradle" model, as the title suggests, focusing on industrial procedures and products around the globe.
I did not possess much knowledge about Cradle to Cradle prior to actually reading it. However, I was aware that the book covered topics related to the effects of manmade creations on the environment. As an engineering student, I believe that—particularly in this day and age—eco-efficiency should play a vital role in any new design, as well as in the evolution of pre-existing methods. Never before has nature's vulnerability been so transparent to the eye. With technology and industry constantly galloping ahead, ignorance towards the environment should be a thing of the past, which is why I chose this book. The authors are not simply theorists voicing goals to humankind. The book speaks for itself as soon as you hold it in your hand. The authors demonstrated their pragmatic approach to eco-efficiency by incorporating the practice into the book, itself, without exception; every physical aspect of the book has been accounted for to become entirely eco-efficient, not to mention the book's design rendering it waterproof and extremely durable. The more natural ink and glue can be safely stripped from the book's plastic pages in a hot-water bath, leaving behind clean plastic that can be wholly recycled without any loss of quality.
Cradle to Cradle's rational explanations and real-world examples provide clear insight of an enormous depth into the debilitating nightmares that plague this earth. The authors begin by explaining how monstrous a role design yields in the direct effects on nature that humans are responsible for. Furthermore, Cradle to Cradle conveys how being "less bad" is neither a solution, nor a goal, to possess. The book cultivates several examples of how companies trying to be "less bad" result in practically no improvements whatsoever. Interestingly enough, the authors were able to point out precisely how each "improvement" was contradicted by a negative effect on the environment. It was astounding to me how prevalent harmful toxins and particulates (microscopic particles released during combustion and incineration) are in products and, therefore, prevalent in the air, the soil, the water, and in us. The book states that, "A 1995 Harvard study found that as many as 100,000 people die annually in the United States as a result of these tiny particles".
It is clear that, as the authors say, "waste equals food," and eco-efficiency is a direct correlation. Doing more with less is what defines eco-efficiency, and this idea starts from the ground up. Making use of local materials, materials themselves, utilizing benefits that the surrounding habitat can provide, production, waste, as well as other factors, all tie in to eco-efficiency and recyclability. Cradle to Cradle distinguishes three types of "recycling." Unfortunately, most "recycling" is, actually, down-cycling. That is, products and materials that can only be melted down in a way that results in an inferior-quality product and can, ergo, never be used to make the same thing. Down-cycling is cradle-to-grave. The materials may be reused, but only along a slower path to its death. A product that can be truly recycled can be used as food for the same-quality product, and even better, products that can be up-cycled can be used to make products superior to what its previous use was—in other words, cradle-to-cradle.
What I mainly gained from Cradle to Cradle was awareness. As an engineer, expanding my knowledge in the criteria of this book will eternally impact my thinking in any design I am involved with, as well as the design itself. Every aspect of evolving designs toward eco-effectiveness involves engineering. After all, that is what design is. Engineering is the core concept behind re-revolutionizing industry, and humankind is immersed in sludge so far above its head that the process of anything becoming eco-efficient is a slow, tedious task—a task, however, that is crucial to our survival.
Cradle to Cradle is an excellent choice for engineers. A heightened understanding and awareness about the environment, as well as how different substances harm or help nature, is exceptionally important information for engineers. I recommend this book based on gaining awareness of the issues I previously explained. Cradle to Cradle was not as helpful with providing solutions to those issues and failed to mention any downfalls to the authors' own real-world designs. With that being said, I suggest reading this book as an introduction to designing for eco-effectiveness. Cradle to Cradle exposes you to numerous complications various substances have with the environment, as well as with humans and wildlife. The book begins training your mind to think more intuitively and with a more vast perspective. Surely, this is useful to any engineer.
Exciting vision of production
In this book, there is hope for the way we make things. Hopefully the right people come across this to continue to keep the ideas advancing.