Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things by William McDonough & Michael Braungart


A few years ago, I had read this book and found that I just couldn’t put it down. Now, having just finished it again, it’s even better! It is an amazing read, especially for those with a keen interest in the environment and sustainability in design.

In designing a product or building, one must always consider its lifecycle. How and after how long will this product be disposed of? How long will this building be able to survive? In design, products have been manufactured through the years without too much consideration to the consequences of the manufacturer’s choice in materials/chemicals, etc. This in turn has lead to products on the market being harmful to the environment and in most cases, harmful to our health. The industrial revolution lead to some amazing advances in technology however, as the designers and manufacturers were unaware of said consequences at the time, we now face many issues that pose a risk to our planet and ultimately, to our survival.

Cradle to Cradle focuses on this lifecycle by presenting the idea that we must re-design our lives and products using the examples we find in nature. This book presents us with many examples as to the natural lifecycle that we as designers, should follow. The author explains that products needn’t have an end to their lifecycle, i.e. their use, but rather the same products can be used again infinitely, thus removing the issue of safe disposal and ultimately creating a healthier and more sustainable environment.

This book made me understand much more about the manufacturing process: the health risks involved not only to the workers themselves but also to us as consumers. Take for instance a rubber soled shoe: as I’m walking down the street wearing these shoes, particles are released from the rubber with every step which contributes to the earth’s environmental issue and also, can’t be too good for my health!

The style of writing is to the point and easy to understand at all levels. The author speaks to the reader in a friendly manner and approaches his subject in an often humerous way  that draws you in and just keeps you going! Rather than pushing a fanatic viewpoint of the dangers of our ways, the ideas here are well researched and practical and really do demonstrate powerful real world solutions to everyday problems faced in the manufacturing industry. Change cannot happen overnight but the concepts presented in Cradle to Cradle present valid improvements to the design, manufacturing and shipping processes while also taking into consideration the financial aspects of these solutions.

All in all, I found this book to be fantastic. It really is a must read for anyone interested in sustainability and design practice. By re-designing the way we make things, we can create a world where waste = food and hopefully live within nature rather than dominating and running against the examples we find all around us in the natural world.

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