Cradle to Cradle: Design for the Future

Email from 6.19.08

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If you watched the endless footage of flooding in the Midwest on television last night, you probably wondered - as I did - if this was a freak of nature or the shape of things to come. And then you might have thought - as I did - that if it IS global warming what the hell is going to stop it. Frustration over what to do and fatigue with "green shopping" have been coming quickly lately...

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One place that I've found inspiration and intelligence in the design community is through Bill McDonough's work, in particular, his book with Michael Braungart called Cradle to Cradle, which boils down everything they've been speaking about for the last decade (or more).

Cradle to Cradle is a great read that argues that the problem is solvable and that the answer lies in more intelligent design. It's provocative and takes you outside of the box, to think about "waste" becoming "food" and how we've historically come to our current situation via the industrial revolution. It also talks about a few companies that have already started making fundamental shifts, like Interface, Nike, Ford and Herman Miller.

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It's even NOT printed on paper, but on fully recyclable polymer:

The book itself is a physical symbol of the changes to come. It is printed on a synthetic 'paper,' made from plastic resins and inorganic fillers, designed to look and feel like top quality paper while also being waterproof and rugged. This 'treeless' book points the way toward the day when synthetic books, like many other products, can be used, recycled, and used again without losing any material quality—in cradle to cradle cycles.

If you start with one "green" book, I recommend this one. It will give you the harsh background and reveal the bright potential future that we have in front of us. And it will help you consider changes in your own life so that you, too, have the potential to ease flooding in the Midwest.

>> Cradle to Cradle
>> Bill McDonough's Website

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.