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Cradle to Cradle® Design


In previous posts we've discussed a few key strategies for achieving Sustainable Development: Industrial Symbiosis and Circular Economy.


Today we'll cover the basis of one of the mainly recognized sustainability paradigms: Cradle to Cradle® design.


Have you ever heard of a biological cycle and the technical cycle?




Nutrients in a biological cycle are always circulating and never losing value (water, nitrogen, carbon, etc.). Now imagine that the system where we produce and sell products and services, the technical cycle, functions just the same. A system where we can use, reuse, recycle, upcycle and more, every "nutrient" or material in the system. Thus the concept of waste doesn't exist.


Cradle to Cradle® describes the safe and potentially infinite circulation of materials and nutrients in cycles. All materials are chemically harmless and recyclable.





Cradle to Cradle® design is inspired by nature. Let's look at the tree, one of nature's greatest designs:


In the words of William McDonough (one the creators of Cradle to Cradle®):


Imagine this design assignment: Design something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates microclimates, changes colors with the season, and self replicates.

What a monumental task!

Well that's exactly the design of the tree in nature.



Cradle to Cradle® design principles are based on creating effective products with positive environmental impacts.


1. The materials in the products we create, are they safe?

2. Are those materials in a Circular Economy?




However, this design paradigm also urges us to consider:


  • It's not only about closing the loop. It's not only a matter of creating a circular approach to the current linear system of production.

  • It's about creating value within the circle. We have to REDESIGN our products, systems and services to create value in each stage.

  • If we focus our efforts only on converting our current economic system into a circular economy, it would mean that all of the harmful chemicals in the existing products would remain inside the system. That's where REDESIGN comes into play.


If you are interested in learning more about Cradle to Cradle®, you can get your hands on the book and you can also visit their website Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.


Last but not least, here's William McDonough's TED Talk for more details on Cradle to Cradle® design:


See you in the next one!

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