Cradle to Cradle

I’m not really a big fan of “certification”. I understand the reasons for it and I know that many who offer it are morally ethical with only the highest intentions but it is also based on distrust and buying integrity with dollars. Still, I really like the Cradle to Cradle Products Institute video I’ve shared above. Certainly, I do believe that product designers, architects and ordinary consumers should take such considerations into account, when creating a new product, conceptualizing a new structure or purchasing a product. And I believe it is both important for NOW and for our future generations, already alive and growing up on this planet.

The thing is that “certification” has been recognized as a definite revenue generator, so that now there are so many possible systems to validate one’s self with, that it would cost a small fortune to sign on with all of them. This is not an expensive or difficult thing to do, if one is a multi-national, global corporation flush with cash that they have been squirreling away, while keep monies off shore to avoid taxes, sending production into cheaper countries with lax regulations and needing to reassure an awakening populace that they have their best interests at heart, and not the bottom line profit that their stockholders insist upon. And it cuts the small, innovative companies that are often eeking along, cash starved from participation.

Cradle to Cradle concepts

The cradle to cradle concept requires a shift of perspective, when thinking about how a product is designed, what it will contain, how it is to be made, and where it will go after it is no longer wanted. Some important considerations are whether the materials are safe for human beings and the environment, whether the product ingredients can be reused safely by nature or another industry, will they be assembled and/or manufactured using a renewable, non-polluting energy source, are water supplies protected or even enriched by the processes and does the existence and production of the product contribute to social and/or environmental justice.

Cradle to Cradle bookcover

The concept of such a considered product design approach was promoted in a 2002 book by the German chemist, Michael Braungart, and the U.S. architect, William McDonough, in their book – Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. The book discourages downcycling (a cradle-to-grave strategy), but rather encourages the manufacture of products with the goal of upcycling in mind. This vision of upcycling is based on a system of “lifecycle development” initiated by Braungart and colleagues at the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency in the 1990s: after products have reached the end of their useful life, they become either “biological nutrients” or “technical nutrients”. Biological nutrients are materials that can re-enter the environment. Technical nutrients are materials that remain within closed-loop industrial cycles.

Caring human beings worry that our consumption driven world is out-stripping the natural resources of the planet and at the same time leaving too much toxicity in its wake. Yet, most of us are dependent on a growth model of economics for a good quality of life. William McDonough in a blog at McDonough Innovation’s website envisions this – “Imagine a world in which all the things we make, use, and consume provide nutrition for nature and industry—a world in which growth is good and human activity generates a delightful, restorative ecological footprint.” Few of us would find fault with such a reality.

Mr McDonough believes that “the destructive qualities of today’s cradle-to-grave industrial system can be seen as the result of a fundamental design problem, not the inevitable outcome of consumption and economic activity. Indeed, good design—principled design based on the laws of nature—can transform the making and consumption of things into a regenerative force.” There is something in my own nature-loving, environmentalist’s heart that says “Right On !” to such thinking.

McDonough describes Cradle-to-Cradle as offering “a framework in which the effective, regenerative cycles of nature provide models for wholly positive human designs. Within this framework we can create economies that purify air, land, and water, that rely on current solar income and generate no toxic waste, that use safe, healthful materials that replenish the earth or can be perpetually recycled, and that yield benefits that enhance all life.” He goes on further to say – “Just as in the natural world, in which one organism’s ‘waste’ cycles through an ecosystem to provide nourishment for other living things, cradle-to-cradle materials circulate in closed-loop cycles, providing nutrients for nature or industry. This model recognizes two metabolisms within which materials flow as healthy nutrients.”

In a cradle-to-cradle system even “valuable, high-tech synthetics and mineral resources—technical nutrients—circulate in a perpetual cycle of production, recovery, and remanufacture.” And of course, “all the human systems that make up the technical metabolism are powered by the renewable energy of the sun.”

Shaw EcoWorx Carpet cycle

Shaw EcoWorx Carpet cycle

An example of a common, everyday product that most people could identify with, is provided by McDonough – “In the commercial carpet industry, material recovery systems are providing a model for the development of technical metabolisms. Shaw Industries, for example, has developed a technical nutrient carpet tile for its commercial customers. The company guarantees that all of its nylon 6 carpet fiber will be taken back and returned to nylon 6 carpet fiber, and its safe polyolefin backing returned to safe polyolefin backing. Raw material to raw material. A cradle-to-cradle cycle. Shaw’s technical nutrient carpet tile is conceived to be a product of service, a key element of the cradle-to-cradle strategy. Products of service are durable goods, such as carpets and washing machines, designed by their manufacturer to be taken back and used again. The product provides a service to the customer while the manufacturer maintains ownership of the product’s material assets.”

McDonough even applies his thinking both our cities and the rural countryside, as well as to the economic necessities that support us all. “In a cradle-to-cradle economy, cities are the principal home and source of technical nutrition—the place where metals are forged, polymers synthesized, and tractors, computers, and windmills designed and manufactured. Cities send these materials forth into the world and receive them back as they move through closed-loop cycles. The countryside, meanwhile, can be seen as the home of the biological metabolism. Materials generated there—food, wood, fibers—are created through interactions of solar energy, soil, and water and are the source of biological nutrition for rural communities and nearby cities. One of the city’s fundamental roles in this metabolism is to return biological nutrition in a safe, healthy form, say as clean fertilizer, back to the rural soil. These flows of nutrients and energy are the twin metabolisms of the living city, the engines of the vibrant economies of the future.”

Below is a chart illustrating Cradle to Cradle for Forest Wood Products (courtesy of the Ellen Macarthur Foundation) –

Forest Wood Cradle to Cradle

Coming FULL CYCLE back to where I started, I do note that on William McDonough’s Innovation website, he does list the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute as a nonprofit steward of the Cradle to Cradle Certified Program. That is a highly trusted recommendation in my opinion.

~ Information Resources

Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute – http://www.c2ccertified.org/

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart and William McDonough – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle_to_Cradle:_Remaking_the_Way_We_Make_Things

The Cradle-to-Cradle Alternative – http://www.mcdonough.com/speaking-writing/the-cradle-to-cradle-alternative/#.U7l7-bdOXL8

The Circular Economy – http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Oscar Night – Greener Than You Might Realize

Red Carpet - Academy Awards

Red Carpet – Academy Awards

That red carpet tonight actually has a lot of “green” to it. Actually, there’s nothing “new” about last year’s red carpet. According to Allen Hershkowitz (a senior scientist at the NRDC), not only was it made of entirely recyclable materials, but it was used in 2012 and 2013 too — and the plan is to roll it out again this year, in 2014. Back in 2007, actor Ed Begley Jr. explained, An Inconvenient Truth was up for an Oscar, Leonardo DiCaprio showed up in a hybrid, and suddenly, “it became cool to be green.” That year, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) teamed up with the show’s producer Laura Ziskin to reduce the environmental impact of the event. ”By announcing this initiative from such a legendary and respected stage, the Academy is reaching tens-of-millions of people across the world with a message that cleaner, more sensible energy choices and a simple commitment to environmental stewardship are Oscar-worthy endeavors for everyone,” Frances Beinecke, NRDC President said in a press release, at the time.

Exactly what does “going Green” look like, at the Oscars ? Here are some stats from last year’s (2013) Awards event – “A total of 183MW of Renewable Energy Credits were purchased from wind power projects to cover the two weeks of preparation and telecast of the Oscars. Other choices included utilizing hydrogen fuel cell lights, B-20 biofuels, and uninteruptible power supplies. The latter took seven days of generator use out of the equation, reducing fuel use and related air emissions by more than 4,000 gallons of fossil fuels. Incandescent lights were replaced by LED fixtures, even for the Governor’s Ball, where 18,000 LED points of light were installed in the chandelier.”

Even the food and supplies to serve it are environmentally friendly. For example, at the Governor’s Ball, the food served was sourced from 80 regional farmers. The seafood had to be certified by Seafood Watch. And any food that was prepared but not consumed, was given to LA Specialty Chefs to End Hunger. Flowers were either composted or donated after being used.

Recycled goods were part of the invitations as well as napkins for the Governor’s Ball. In the Dolby Theater, where the ceremony is held, easily accessible recycling bins were implemented to allow backstage workers to recycle throughout the ceremony’s preparations. Out of 50 tons of non-food waste, at the end of last year’s awards show, 70 percent of that was recycled. It is estimated that through paper-saving measures, like double-sided printing, 10,000 sheets of paper were saved.

Naomie Harris wearing the 2013  Red Carpet Green Dress

Naomie Harris wearing the 2013
Red Carpet Green Dress

Suzy Amis Cameron, wife of James Cameron of Avatar fame, created a related even in 2009 known as the Red Carpet Green Dress competition. The winning red carpet look is made from organic, sustainable, or recycled fabrics, and the winning designer is mentored by an established brand to help create the glamorous gown. This year, actress Olga Kurylenko will reveal the winning design, a dress by Alice Elia. Alice is from Bordeaux, France and is of French-Lebanese descent. She is currently studying ESMOD’s ‘Fashion Design & Creation’ curriculum in Paris, and is currently being mentored through dress construction by the college’s couture team. .

Beyond Skin (an ethical footware and fashion label in the UK) has collaborated with PETA to develop a vegan, limited edition, red carpet shoe for Red Carpet Green Dress. The faux suede and metallic-trimmed evening shoe is made from Dinamica (manufactured in Italy) is durable, long lasting, and made from 100% recycled bottle tops.

Hershkowitz also pointed out the incredible platform for advancing sustainable initiatives the Oscars provides. As a large organization actively working to reduce its footprint, there are direct, positive effects on the environment. The publicity that goes along with this places “green” business practices at the forefront of discussion, and makes it a desirable trait for an organization or company. But Hollywood’s commitment to environmental awareness and sustainability support goes beyond one event.

For a long time, we have been aware of the work of the Environmental Media Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to harnessing the power of the entertainment industry and the media to educate the global public on environmental issues and motivate sustainable lifestyles. As they are quick to point out – “Green doesn’t always mean something is sustainable. And sustainable may not always be the best choice.” There are degrees of “green” and the “greenest” could be defined as what is actually sustainable. And there are even degrees of sustainability.

Debbie Levin, EMA President with Darren Criss, actor-singer.

Debbie Levin, EMA President with Darren Criss, actor-singer.

Every year, the EMA has an awards night as well. The 23rd Annual EMA Awards was on Oct 19, 2013. They are so green, that they don’t have a “red” carpet, they have a green carpet. Examples of some of the work honored include for Feature Film “Promised Land”, for Documentary Film “Gasland Part II”, for Television Episodic Comedy from Last Man Standing “Mother Fracker” and for Children’s Television from Nick News With Linda Ellerbee “What’s the Deal With Fracking?”. Some of the 2013 EMA Award Honorees included Matt Damon, who received the EMA Board of Directors Ongoing Commitment Award and Bill McKibben who received the EMA Lifetime Achievement Award.

And when you pop that cork on your bottle of wine while watching the Academy Awards on Sunday night (Mar 2nd, 2014), don’t forget to recycle BOTH – the cork and the glass bottle. Yemm & Hart supports the conversion of wine corks into tile products for the built environment.

~ Information Resources

Sustainability at the Oscars: Going Green Can Be Glamorous by Colleen Casey posted on Feb 27, 2014 at CheatSheet – http://wallstcheatsheet.com/life/style/sustainability-at-the-oscars-going-green-can-be-glamorous.html/

Olga Kurylenko To Reveal The Fifth Design From Suzy Amis Cameron’s Red Carpet Green Dress On The Oscar Carpet posted Feb 26, 2014 at Red Carpet Green Dress – http://redcarpetgreendress.com/home/news/#sthash.1y3I9ybF.dpuf

Why Yes, There is A Difference Between Green And Sustainable by EMA Staff posted Feb 21, 2014 at Environmental Media Association – http://www.ema-online.org/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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