Think Cradle to Cradle

The end of a product, is actually the start of a product for something else.


In a world where everything is thrown away and replaced, there’s one design principle that has been gaining momentum over the past few years Cradle-to-Cradle. 

The Cradle-to-Cradle Institute will measure how sustainable products are made with an eye towards what the product does ‘next’ — rather than just examining material makeup alone.

While the idea behind this process was understood by Dieter Rams in 1976 as he balanced aesthetic appeal with choices to ensure products last longer. The environmental philosophy really originated with Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart (both designers at the University of Virginia). They wanted to create a new way for people to look at how they produce goods and consume materials by creating an eco-friendly framework for designing products.

The first step towards thinking Cradle-to-Cradle is deciding what you want your product made out of - this will be either “biological” or “technical.” Biological means all natural substances like plants, animals, minerals, and human beings. Technical means all man-made things like metals, plastics, ceramics, etc.

After figuring out what you want your product to be made of, the next step is to create a “materials tree.” This gives an idea of how each material will move through production and end up in landfill or as waste or even better — as something else!

If we can embed Cradle to Cradle thinking in how we operate and what it is that we do and how we approach the role as a designer of a particular product it gives us so much flexibility to think not just about the intended use of the thing we’ve been asked to design, but the long term, ongoing use for those things. 

Welcome to movement of the circular economy. 

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