Friday, July 23, 2004

Cradle to Cradle

This morning on the CBC radio program "Next", I was listening to an by Nora Young interview with Michael Braungart, co-founder of the company MBDC "a product and process design firm dedicated to transforming the design of products, processes, and services worldwide."

He was talking about "cradle to cradle design", which is something I had not heard about before.

Cradle to Cradle

Basically, cradle to cradle design uses "eco-effective" processes and designs to produce products which, rather than being simply "recycleable", are entirely recoverable or not only create no impact on the environment, actually improve the environment. Two examples that he referred to were Unilever, which has ice-cream packaging created from leaf-litter which not only bio-degrades in just a few hours, incorporates seeds from rare plants; and the Ford Motor Company which has introduced the Model U, produced using green materials and processes like soy-based componants and corn-based fillers in its tires, as well as green technologies, such as a revolutionary Hydrogen Internal-Combustion Engine which producess pollutant emissions at near zero (including carbon dioxide).

In fact, Ford is working towards a vehicle with a 5-year life span, at which point, Ford would accept back the entire vehicle. The vehicle then would then be dissolved in a solvent, the polymers recovered, and resued in the creation of new vehicles. Certainly, a revolutionary concept. The test, of course would be with the consumer.
If the price-point on cars with designed-in life-spans is acceptable to the consumer, the concept will work.
In fact, many other companies are already using cradle to cradle design.
Victor, a leader in producing fabrics for furniture and commercial interiors, had adapted itself to the concept and not only produces materials which are up the the cradle to cradle specifications, it draws from partners who are also dedicated to the concept, and with processes which are also in keeping with the philosophy.    
Shaw Industries, the world's largest carpet manufacturer has turned to a non-PVC carpet backing and will have completely stopped using PVC-based adhesives by the end of this year. Shaw has received a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a recipient of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award.
The MBDC strategies are quickly becoming the standard in companies engaging in cradle to cradle design. MBDC has hosted the EPA Cradle to Cradle Design Award for E-Commerce Shipping, Packaging and Logistics Competition.

Enviro Packaging

In April, the EnvironDesign 8 conference included a presentation by MBDC co-counders McDonough and Braungart on the cradle to cradle approach to sustainablilty.
China has now embarked on a sustainablity program, again using the MBDC strategies. 

MBDC describes cradle to cradle design thusly:
"The cradle-to-cradle model recognizes two metabolisms within which materials flow as healthy nutrients. Nature’s nutrient cycles comprise the biological metabolism. Materials designed to flow optimally in the biological metabolism [such as Climatex Lifecycle], which we call biological nutrients, can be safely returned to the environment after use to nourish living systems. The technical metabolism, designed to mirror the Earth’s cradle-to-cradle cycles, is a closed-loop system in which valuable, high-tech synthetics and mineral resources—technical nutrients—circulate in a perpetual cycle of production, recovery and remanufacture. "

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