Friday, December 12, 2008
[Hi, Scott posting again] To follow up on the material certification topic I started last week, this week I will be talking about Cradle to Cradle certification. "Cradle to Cradle" is a term coined by William Mcdonough and Michael Braungart to describe a pretty radical way of thinking about the life cycle of a product. Cradle to Cradle is about creating products that are designed for closed loop systems that create value and are healthy and safe. Often as a product moves through it's life cycle it goes through a dramatic degradation process and it's value becomes trapped in useless waste or worse yet it harms other natural systems as it is used. The bigger goal here is to design products that beneficial when they are used. He makes the point that growth in nature or a child is a good thing and so why can't growth related to development also be positive? This thinking turns the minimizing approach of sustainability it's head says that consuming product should play a positive role in our environment and society. The funny thing is that while this will require a radical reworking of the way we think about making and using products, it allows our consumptive urges to continue to run wild. For me, this is both the most promising aspect and the biggest danger. Our consumptive desire has been a tough one to shake (if not impossible) and while the bright future of good products sound great, in the short term we will have to do less. Anyway William McDonough along with Michael Braungart have written a really good book covering this approach and have followed that up with a certification program that evaluated products against their criteria. Mc Donough's website has videos and writings that are worth spending some time on. One interesting development with the LEED certification is that the next version (New Construction V2009) it will contain life cycle assessment as part of it's criteria. I will be interested to see if they start embracing ideas similar to Cradle to Cradle and then I wonder how such a potentially wide reaching idea will impact their other criteria.