Cover image for Cradle to cradle : remaking the way we make things
Cradle to cradle : remaking the way we make things
McDonough, William.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : North Point Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
193 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
"Water proof Durabook."

"Melcher Media book"--P. [4] of cover.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TD794.5 .M395 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A manifesto for a radically different philosophy and practice of manufacture and environmentalism

"Reduce, reuse, recycle" urge environmentalists; in other words, do more with less in order to minimize damage. But as this provocative, visionary book argues, this approach perpetuates a one-way, "cradle to grave" manufacturing model that dates to the Industrial Revolution and casts off as much as 90 percent of the materials it uses as waste, much of it toxic. Why not challenge the notion that human industry must inevitably damage the natural world?

In fact, why not take nature itself as our model? A tree produces thousands of blossoms in order to create another tree, yet we do not consider its abundance wasteful but safe, beautiful, and highly effective; hence, "waste equals food" is the first principle the book sets forth. Products might be designed so that, after their useful life, they provide nourishment for something new-either as "biological nutrients" that safely re-enter the environment or as "technical nutrients" that circulatewithin closed-loop industrial cycles, without being "downcycled" into low-grade uses (as most "recyclables" now are).

Elaborating their principles from experience (re)designing everything from carpeting to corporate campuses, William McDonough and Michael Braungart make an exciting and viable case for change.

Author Notes

William McDonough is an architect and the founding principal of William McDonough + Partners, Architecture and Community Design, based in Charlottesville, Virginia. From 1994 to 1999 he served as dean of the school of architecture at the University of Virginia. In 1999 Time magazine recognized him as a "Hero for the Planet," stating that "his utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that--in demonstrable and practical ways--is changing the design of the world." In 1996, he received the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development, the highest environmental honor given by United States.

Michael Braungart is a chemist and the founder of the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA) in Hamburg, Germany. Prior to starting EPEA, he was the director of the chemistry section for Greenpeace. Since 1984 he has been lecturing at universities, businesses, and institutions around the world on critical new concepts for ecological chemistry and materials flow management. Dr. Braungart is the recipient of numerous honors, awards, and fellowships from the Heinz Endowment, the W. Alton Jones Foundation, and other organizations.

In 1995 the authors created McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, a product and systems development firm assisting client companies in implementing their unique sustaining design protocol. Their clients include Ford Motor Company, Nike, Herman Miller, BASF, DesignTex, Pendleton, Volvo, and the city of Chicago.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Environmentalists are normally the last people to be called shortsighted, yet that's essentially what architect McDonough and chemist Braungart contend in this clarion call for a new kind of ecological consciousness. The authors are partners in an industrial design firm that devises environmentally sound buildings, equipment and products. They argue that conventional, expensive eco-efficiency measures things like recycling or emissions reduction are inadequate for protecting the long-term health of the planet. Our industrial products are simply not designed with environmental safety in mind; there's no way to reclaim the natural resources they use or fully prevent ecosystem damage, and mitigating the damage is at best a stop-gap measure. What the authors propose in this clear, accessible manifesto is a new approach they've dubbed "eco-effectiveness": designing from the ground up for both eco-safety and cost efficiency. They cite examples from their own work, like rooftops covered with soil and plants that serve as natural insulation; nontoxic dyes and fabrics; their current overhaul of Ford's legendary River Rouge factory; and the book itself, which will be printed on a synthetic "paper" that doesn't use trees. Because profitability is a requirement of the designs, the thinking goes, they appeal to business owners and obviate the need for regulatory apparatus. These shimmery visions can sound too good to be true, and the book is sometimes frustratingly short on specifics, particularly when it comes to questions of public policy and the political interests that might oppose widespread implementation of these designs. Still, the authors' original concepts are an inspiring reminder that humans are capable of much more elegant environmental solutions than the ones we've settled for in the last half-century. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

The play on words in the title is the key to understanding the environmentalist authors' point of view and inspiring approach toward intelligent design for products and processes, leaving the biosphere a little better than it was for our grandchildren. Their pitch is to be good, not less bad, in our designs. American architect McDonough and German chemist Braungart are partners in a company they founded that advises corporations and institutions on eco-effective practices requiring no postmanufacturing and postconsumer problem-solving because there will be no problems. This important and likely controversial book needs to be read and discussed, not only by movers and shakers, but by young people trying to understand the biosphere and anthropogenic impacts. However, this book is not unblemished, either in content or execution. The content is far too fuzzy and lacking in concrete ideas of wide applicability on sustainable growth, making it easy for critics to dismiss. The execution is maddening for its lack of suitable references, a substantive bibliography, and most frustratingly, a working index, all of which this reviewer suspects would add more value to the book than the too-cute-for-words curved corners and the "paper" it is printed on. Everyone should read this! All levels. L. W. Fine Columbia University

Table of Contents

Introduction: This Book Is Not a Treep. 3
Chapter 1 A Question of Designp. 17
Chapter 2 Why Being "Less Bad" Is No Goodp. 45
Chapter 3 Eco-Effectivenessp. 68
Chapter 4 Waste Equals Foodp. 92
Chapter 5 Respect Diversityp. 118
Chapter 6 Putting Eco-Effectiveness into Practicep. 157
Notesp. 187
Acknowledgmentsp. 193