Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

Reframing design as a positive and regenerative force

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

By Michael Braungart & William McDonough

Cradle to Cradle originates from an architect, William McDonough, and a chemist, Michael Braungart coming together to rethink the way we make things. 


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% 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?

Braungart and McDonough present an innovative integration design and science that provides enduring benefits for society from safe materials, water and energy in circular economies and eliminates the concept of waste

The principles of Cradle to Cradle

The Cradle to Cradle new framework instead, characterizes by 3 principles derived from nature:

1. Everything is a resource for something else 

In nature, the “waste” of one system becomes food for another. Everything can be designed to be disassembled and safely returned to the soil as biological nutrients, or re-utilized as high-quality materials for new products as technical nutrients without contamination.

2. Use clean and renewable energy 

Living things thrive on the energy of current solar income. Similarly, human constructs can utilize clean and renewable energy in many forms—such as solar, wind, geothermal, gravitational energy and other energy systems being developed today—thereby capitalizing on these abundant resources while supporting human and environmental health.

3. Celebrate diversity

Around the world, geology, hydrology, photosynthesis and nutrient cycling, adapted to locale, yield an astonishing diversity of natural and cultural life. Designs that respond to the challenges and opportunities offered by each place fit elegantly and effectively into their own niches.

Rather than coming up with a half solution, just seeking to minimize the harm we inflict, Cradle to Cradle reframes design as a positive, regenerative force — one that creates footprints to delight in, not lament. 

This paradigm shift reveals opportunities to improve quality, increase value and spur innovation. It inspires us to constantly seek improvement in our designs and to share our discoveries with others.

Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Products

Since 2010, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute has an exclusive license for the certification program and methodology. Today the Institute administers the program and manages the Product Standard as a third-party, nonprofit organization. 

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