CRADLE TO CRADLE by William McDonough


Remaking the Way We Make Things
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Noted eco-designers suggest a paradigm shift in human habits of manufacture and consumption.

American architect/industrial engineer McDonough and German chemist Braungart collaborated at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit on a proposal for eliminating the concept of waste in industrial design. Here, they elaborate on their theory, explaining that even environment-friendly policies such as recycling and waste-reduction still fall short of achieving for humankind the kind of balance and harmony that other living entities have employed for millennia. The authors, who now run a design consulting firm, examine reigning industrial design practices and our basic misconceptions about waste, arguing against the idea that “less bad is good” and offering several points for future thought about putting their principles of “eco-effectiveness” to work. The emphasis here is on moving beyond traditional thinking about the relationship between nature and humanity to consider instead how to make humanity itself a better-functioning natural system. Despite the awakening of environmentalism over the past three decades, McDonough and Braungart assert, we are still largely stuck with the Industrial Revolution precept of “cradle to grave” consumer goods that become waste. They offer several examples of how industrial processes and thoughtful changes in the design of habitat and work environment might create true self-nourishing systems. Environmental regulations, the authors believe, are needed stopgaps but ultimately exemplify a major design flaw in the way we think about making things. For instance, instead of a more fuel-efficient car, why not a mode of transportation that would not simply be less polluting but would actually nourish the atmosphere? Moving past both the planned obsolescence that is the cornerstone of much industry, as well as the control and command structure of environmental regulation, McDonough and Braungart encourage humanity to begin thinking of itself as a self-sustaining entity that does not necessarily need to take a toll on its surroundings.

A readable, provocative treatise that “gets outside the box” in a huge way. Timely and inspiring.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-86547-587-3
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2002


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