Throughout the course of history waste, environmental degradation and pollution have grown alongside human population and economic activity. Economies and people's livelihoods have become dependent on producing and consuming myriad products made up of chemical compounds unknown in nature or to them -- and indigestible to the Earth's natural processes of recycling and reuse.
To produce these products, we destroy ecosystems and wildlife – even other people at times – and pollute the air, water and land. When we're finished with them, we discard them to be carted off, dumped, buried or incinerated. A small, but significant and growing amount, we recycle or reuse.
Some might say, "That's nature, and we're just a part of it." Others are using the gifts nature has endowed us with to find better ways of designing and making things -- ways that are not only socially, ecologically and economically sustainable, but can actually leave a net positive footprint on societies and our planet.
In the 2002 book, “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things,” architect William McDonough and chemist Dr. Michael Braungart introduced the concept of cradle-to-cradle product design.
Taking up and expanding on the concept and its principles, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute today released a study exploring the business, environmental and social impacts on 10 pioneering companies participating in a pilot implementation of its Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program.
After 18 years of working with leading brands to develop it, William McDonough and Dr. Braungart handed the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard over to the nonprofit Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (C2CPII).
As the institute explains, it was “created to bring about a new industrial revolution that turns the making of things into a positive force for society, economy, and the planet.”
Elaborating a bit on this statement, the institute explains that the Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program guides continual improvement towards products that are:
To reach out and spread the Cradle to Cradle message more broadly, in its pilot program technical report C2CPII profiles 10 pilot program companies that differ in size, location and product offerings. In doing so, the institute explores “the economic, social, and ecological benefits of certification.”
As highlights, C2CPII in a press release offers three examples from participating companies:
In addition, they continue, pilot certification program participants' experiences with adopting the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Certification framework “illustrates the structural cost reduction through re-using product material and increasing resource efficiency. By avoiding traditional resource markets and by reducing dependency on non-renewable energy, the report shows companies’ risk was reduced from volatile commodity prices and supply disruption.”
With a “middle class” of consumers emerging in populous, rapidly developing nations such as Brazil, China and India, humanity has come to a pivotal and critical point in time with an increasingly pressing need to rethink and find ways of designing products in economically viable ways that don't degrade people or the environment, Luther highlights in the foreword of the report.
“Billions of people around the world are poised to gain middle class consumer power to change how we design, use and reuse products," Luther said. "If the world is going to flourish, shared prosperity must be realized with a new consumption model free from waste, pollution, and social and environmental expense. The model is Cradle to Cradle and its implementation is the certification program.”
Image credits: Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute
An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.