THE UPCYCLE by William McDonough


Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance
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Architect McDonough and chemist Braungart (co-authors: Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, 2002) tender both an attitude and a strategy for a better-designed world.

The authors caused a splash a decade ago with their notion of cradle to cradle: that our goods and services can be designed with the intentionality of reuse. Here, they expand on that notion, firing off examples of achieving the upcycle—“a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy, and just world with clean air, water, soil, and power, economically, equitably, ecologically, and elegantly enjoyed”—through the proper use of design. The book is a heady engagement, a powerful to-and-fro between the authors and readers. Who would quibble that design ought to take reuse into account, that regulations are a red flag indicating the need for redesign, or that using positive ingredients to begin with is better than having to eliminate dangerous byproducts? Most interesting are the hands-on, root-to-rebirth projects they, or others, have accomplished: Their design of an experimental, high-sustaining building for NASA is a vision brought to life; infusing objects with color via reflected-light polymers rather than poisonous dyestuffs; providing plants with the specific light energy they need with solar-powered LEDs. But the authors examine wind turbines as a “pleasant visual” in one instance and a potential “blight” in another, and some readers may wonder who decides “those things we like, that are useful, pleasurable, and healthy.” The authors end with a “What’s Next?” section, a list of 10 points to remember, including “We Don’t Have an Energy Problem. We Have a Materials-in-the-Wrong-Place Problem,” “Always Be Asking What’s Next” and “Add Good on Top of Subtracting Bad.”

Mostly stimulating and inventive.

Pub Date: April 16th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-86547-748-3
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2013


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