I only stumbled across the concept of cradle to cradle design recently and was surprised that I’d not come across it sooner. Given that I spend quite a lot of time reading around the subjects of design and systems I’d have expected to have run into the concept before now.
Cradle to cradle design (or C2C) is centred around creating efficient waste-free systems. Similar to natural systems, C2C systems exist within their own ecosystem that they enrich rather than harm. C2C design grew out of work of Walter Stahel in the 1970’s who first used the phrase “cradle to cradle” in relation to holistic waste free systems, an alternative to “cradle to grave” destructive systems.
McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) consultants run a proprietary program of C2C certification that is mainly aimed at big business / manufacturing. There’s plenty of further information the MBDC website – I think the two diagrams at the top of this page sum C2C up quite nicely. The MBDC certification model is based on work undertaken by Michael Braungart and his colleagues in the 1990’s at the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA).
The Cradle to Cradle® design framework moves beyond the goal of only reducing an organization’s negative impacts (eco-efficiency), to provide an engaging vision for executives and comprehensive strategies for managers to create a wholly positive footprint on the planet—environmental, social and economic (eco-effectiveness).
Michael Braungart has spoken at the do lectures in West Wales the video of which is available on the do lectures website. A really interesting speech giving a fascinating insight into the mind of a chemist and the holistic view, down at an elemental level, that he takes to good, product design. Such holistic thinking provides a powerful perspective toward sustainability for all designers – recommended viewing.
If you’re looking for further reading then take a look at the book Cradle to Cradle:Remaking the Way We Make Things written by William McDonough & Michael Braungart and published in 2002.