Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
Michael Braungart
Publication Date
April 2002
North Point Press
A manifesto for a radically different philosophy and practice of manufacture and environmentalism

"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 (re)designing everything from carpeting to corporate campuses, the authors make an exciting and viable case for change.

This is the book that made me not just re-think production and design, but systems and organizations too. The same principles can be applied to these other fields and it's a great "post Industrial Revolution" book for service designers.

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
Filed under: sustainability, post-industrial, systems.
 Rate this book
Guest tags and ratings are provisional. Sign in to confirm.
Share your perspective. Does this book belong in the service design canon? What are the most important points to take away? Please share any links to reviews or other information regarding this book or its themes.
Your Name *
E-mail Address *
Check your inbox for confirmation after you submit your comment. Follow the link in the e-mail for approval. You should only need to do this once.
  1. Introduction: This Book Is Not a Tree
  2. A Question of Design
  3. Why Being "Less Bad" Is No Good
  4. Eco-Effectiveness
  5. Waste Equals Food
  6. Respect Diversity
  7. Putting Eco-Effectiveness into Practice
  8. Notes
  9. Acknowledgments