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Mary Mazzoni headshot

3p Weekend: 8 Companies Going Cradle-to-Cradle

By Mary Mazzoni

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

Once dismissed as something of an unachievable hippie fantasy, the circular economy has emerged as a key talking point in the sustainability set. Invented by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970s and popularized by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their 2002 book of the same name, the cradle-to-cradle framework is a lynchpin of the circular economy conversation in the 21st century.

In cradle-to-cradle production, all material inputs and outputs are seen either as technical or biological nutrients. Technical nutrients can be recycled or reused with no loss of quality, and biological nutrients composted or consumed.

Founded by McDonough and Braungart in 2010, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute took the concept to the next level by developing a third-party standard through which companies can continually develop their products.

According to the Institute, the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard looks at a product through five quality categories — material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. A product receives an achievement level in each category — Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum — with the lowest achievement level representing the product’s overall mark. Every two years, manufacturers must demonstrate good faith efforts to improve their products in order to have them re-certified.

The requirements for the certification are tough to achieve, and only a select few companies have made the grade as of yet. This week we tip our hats to eight of those companies that are leading the charge to a truly circular economy.

1. Method

Thanks to nontoxic and biodegradable ingredients, Method has achieved C2C Gold certification for several of its household cleaning products, including its 8x Laundry Detergent, All-Purpose Natural Surface Cleaner and bathroom care product group. C2C has yet to award Platinum certification to any product, so these Gold-star items are basically the market front-runners.

Although Method made its first big splash by selling hand soap in bottles made from recovered ocean plastic, these C2C certifications apply only to its product formulations, not its packaging.

2. Aveda

Thanks to its preference for natural ingredients, Aveda was able to achieve C2C Gold certification for 10 of its product formulations. With post-consumer recycled milk jugs making up a minimum of 80 percent of its bottles, the packaging on these products also received C2C Silver certification -- making Aveda a clear leader in the hair care industry.

3. JBC Belgium

JBC Belgium is Belgium’s first fashion store to launch a Cradle to Cradle Certified Basic collection. This is the first step in its long-term plan to develop clothes whose materials can be reused without any quality loss.

4. Lauffenmühle

After years of development, Lauffenmühle now offers an innovative textile yarn that's ideal for work wear (think: scrubs and service uniforms). Up to now, mainly cotton and polyester blends were used in the industry -- a big no-no for for cradle-to-cradle because it necessitates downcycling at end-of-life.

Lauffenmühle's new textiles consist of a blend of cellulosic fibers derived from FSC-certified wood and biodegradable synthetic polymers made from plants not used for food. All raw materials, ingredients, chemicals and dyes are safe for biological systems and are C2C certified at Gold level.

5. Carlsberg Group

Best known for its namesake pilsner, the Carlsberg Group is making moves toward a cradle-to-cradle system for its packaging. So far, the company has achieved C2C Bronze certification for its Carlsberg lager and Somersby cider cans sold in the U.K. market.

6. Herman Miller

Herman Miller's Aeron chair has become synonymous with comfort and sleek style in the office. But did you know it's also environmentally sustainable?

In addition to its well-known ergonomic and functional qualities, Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick designed the Aeron chair to be sparing of natural resources, durable and repairable, and constructed for ease of disassembly and recycling, according to the Institute. The C2C Silver certified Aeron is up to 94 percent recyclable, contains up to 64 percent recycled content, and has no PVC.

7. Shaw Industries

Shaw Industries, the world's largest carpet manufacturer, has been producing Cradle-to-Cradle certified products for more than a decade, and they now make up 64 percent of the company’s sales. At the heart of the company's success is Nylon 6, the only 100 percent closed-loop, cradle-to-cradle fiber currently available in the carpet industry.

Evergreen Nylon Recycling, Shaw’s nylon recycling operation in Augusta, Georgia, employs patented technology that converts post-consumer Nylon 6 carpet into caprolactam, the building block of this fiber. This cycle can be repeated over and over again without the loss of any aesthetic or performance properties. The company has recycled 100 million pounds of carpet in the last 12 months, creating new fibers and keeping post-consumer carpet from entering the landfill.

8. gDiapers

Moms looking for a sustainable solution to one of parenting's stinky situations may be happy to learn that green diaper brand gDiapers is even more eco-friendly than they thought. gDiapers disposable inserts were the first consumer packaged good to be C2C certified (Silver) and the first to feature the Cradle-to-Cradle Certified logo on packaging. It's also the only diaper brand to be C2C certified.

The disposable inserts tuck inside reusable diaper covers called gPants -- creating a part reusable, part disposable solution. The disposable inserts break down in a home compost pile in 3 months While gDiapers ran into trouble with the FTC over biodegradability claims, and there are no easy answers in the world of diapering, the C2C designation rightly marks gDiapers as one of the greenest options out there.

Image credit: Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute 

Mary Mazzoni headshotMary Mazzoni

Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as managing editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of brands and organizations on sustainability storytelling.

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