My bookshelf: Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, by German chemist Michael Braungart and U.S. architect William McDonough

Cradle to Cradle examines industry, consumerism, product life cycles, and supply chains from a design perspective. Our current production model uses a “cradle to grave” process, creating things from resources and designing them to serve their function and then be tossed out. However, as we are well aware, trash really doesn’t go “away” and we’re consuming our natural resources at an unprecedented rate without adequately replenishing them. The cradle to cradle production process tries to eliminate harmful waste, and overall negative environmental impacts, by taking into account what will happen to the product after it’s done being used. And beyond that, thinking about how that product can be most effectively remade into other products or used to provide nutrients to different supply chains.

I highly recommend this book as an engaging and easy to read introduction to environmental issues caused by mass consumerism. The authors propose that we find solutions to environmental problems not by figuring out how we can be less bad or do less harm, but by how we can do good and improve the environment through our industry activities. What they propose is tough, which is one of the things I like about this book. They are challenging designers and producers to design, create, produce, and dispose better; the solutions might be difficult and might cause friction against traditional methods, but that is not a reason to give up.

Additionally, the authors use processes and design elements from nature on a functional level and theorize how we can apply them to our own activities. This is relevant to us because we’re the only species whose activities of overuse or over production have massive ecological ramifications. So, how can we shift our processes such that our industries provide nutrients and benefit our environment similar to how plant and animal species do.

A unique feature: One of the most interesting aspects of the book is that it’s the perfect camping or backpacking read. The book isn’t made of wood pulp paper, but rather a polymer that makes it waterproof.  Seriously, I did the test when I bought it and ran it under the kitchen sink!

Under the kitchen sink!

Where to buy: Amazon.com, of course. But you can always check out your local used bookstore for a copy – that’s where I acquired mine!