Tuesday, March 31, 2009

LOUISE : post 5: cradle to cradle...

Cradle to Cradle Design is a biomimetic approach to the design of systems. It is a holistic economic, industrial and social framework that seeks to create systems that are not just efficient but essentially waste free. The model in its broadest sense is not limited to industrial design and manufacturing; it can be applied to many different aspects of human civilization such as urban environments, buildings, economics and social systems.

Cradle to grave design is the full Life Cycle Assessment from manufacture to the 'being used' phase and then the disposal phase. For example, trees produce paper and are recycled into low-energy production fiberised paper insulation and used as an energy-saving device in the ceiling of a home for 40 years, saving 2,000 times the fossil-fuel energy used in its production. After 40 years the fiberised paper fibers are replaced and are not re-cycled, but are disposed of.

"When designers employ the intelligence of natural systems -- the effectiveness of nutrient cycling, the abundance of the sun's energy -- they can create products that provide nourishment for something new after each useful life. Every element of a product can be conceived as "food" for either biological cycles (the systems of nature) or technical cycles (the systems of industry). And when these biological nutrients and technical nutrients flow within their respective cycles, they allow both nature and commerce to thrive and grow."
- William McDonough and Michael Braungart, green@work, September-October 2001

Chinese town in Cradle to cradle design

The concept of Cradle to Cradle Design is particularly delightful because it is founded on the idea that every product can be a nutrient. In the documentary, Waste Equals Food, Michael Braungart mentioned an innovative design that really got my attention and made me think hard about the products i use everyday that are inevitably through-away-items. He speaks of a ice-cream wrapper design that stays compact while frozen, and after a few hours of de-frosting, actually decomposes into a liquid form. Think of all the packaging we use during our day; the water bottles, cereal boxes, and plastic wrapping - imagine if they could all be placed nicely in our gardens in the morning, and by the afternoon they would simply have faded into be a part of our backyard, without harming any creatures in the soil or affecting our lovely plant life.
Amazing. However, Michael Braungart went even further with the mundane ice - cream wrapper! He told us that the same liquifying wrapper actually is embedded with rare plant seeds, so that not only does the wrapper not impact on the environment, but it improves it! Imagine if our streets, in place of all filthy litter was instead a cluster of colour and flowers!!
wow, talk about inspiration. Think of the possibilities...!

 I have grown so used to the concept of never running out of simple products that i hardly even think about where they end up once i have finished using them. As a consumer though, there are endless possibilities of products and many things would be very difficult to find in a 'waste to food' form. I think what McDonough and Braungart are instigating is amazing and inspiring, not only economically for the design world, but also one of inspiration and hope in our day-to-day lives :)

1 comment: