We want to share a brilliant idea, which was spread by William McDonough and Michael Braungart: cradle to cradle. The main idea is that instead of producing goods with materials which are converted in waste or recycling some of the materials slowing down the end of resources but not really becoming 100% sustainable, designers and manufacturers should take into account a closed loop on the life of products. In other words, when designing goods, the materials, the design and the technology used should be chosen in a way that we can reuse the product for something else, recycle it 100% or use biodegradable materials which avoid accumulating waste and are environmentally friendly. Please watch this video on Youtube if you want to see an introduction of the idea in images.

The two men actually published a whole book talking about it: Cradle to cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things in 2002 and they registered the trademark on their consultancy firm McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC). They went a step further and in 2010 founded a non-profit organization named Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute in order to scale up and extent the concept. They donated the registered trademark to the Institute including the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard which as stated in their webpage is:

‘a systemic approach to product innovation that spurs the creation of truly beautiful, high-quality products, and transforms the production of consumer products into a positive force for society and the environment. The Cradle to Cradle Certified Mark provides consumers, regulators, employees, and industry peers with a clear, visible, and tangible understanding of a manufacturer’s commitment to sustainability.’

In their webpage they also show examples of the cradle to cradle implementation in a wide range of sectors:

  • The multinational producer of athletics and casual foot and sportswear, Puma, created the Incycle Collection: biodegradable sneakers, 100% recyclable jackets and other accessories and footwear including Bring back bins in their stores to help close the loop of the recyclable products.
  • Construction Specialties, a building products manufacturer, analyzed their products and processes reducing their waste wherever possible, even creating and designing their own transportation devices.
  • Steelcase, leading office furniture manufacturer, have created cradle to cradle certified products from whiteboards to chairs and tables.
  • Designtex, a New York-based textile company, created a collection of ecological fabrics thanks to the creation of new materials and the selection of the chemicals commonly used in textile production which were 100% good for humans and the environment.
  • In Icestone, the world’s leading manufacturer of sustainable durable surfaces, they have created their own water recycling system which saves significant amounts of fresh water yearly (millions of gallons or liters). They also use recycled glass and shells for the production of their surfaces and they even help in the innovation of the pigments provided by their suppliers in order to substitute some known human carcinogens used in some product recipes for inorganic options without compromising the esthetics from the final product.
  • Ecover, a Belgium company providing professional cleaning products since 1979, decided to re-launch their product portfolio including the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certification.
  • Mechosystems, the leading innovator of manual, monitorized, and automated solar-shading and room darkening solutions, managed to obtain an entire window-shading system (both the hardware and the shadecloth) Cradle to Cradle Certified.

This was a summary of the innovation stories presented by the Institute but you can find more examples and innovation examples on the web such as:

  • The Austrian company gugler Kommunikationshaus which was the first printing company worldwide obtaining the C2C certification in printing products.
  • Joolz, a Dutch baby stroller company, has encouraged their customer to turn the boxes containing their products into usable chairs, birdhouses and light bulb holders with printed directions inside the boxes.

How far innovation can reach? These stories prove we can have creativity and imagination in any sector and product! If you know or find more innovation stories, please share them with us!

Concluding this post and repeating the key learnings we would like you to remember…

In a nutshell and as mentioned in the introduction video, cradle to cradle is about:

  • Keeping all materials in continuous cycles
  • Stimulating the use of renewable energy only
  • Celebrating diversity

Achieving this we are able to borrow materials instead of using them, getting closer to a sustainable world with zero-waste. Do you advocate the cradle to cradle idea? We definitely do!