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Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  9,855 ratings  ·  890 reviews
"Reduce, reuse, recycle," urge environmentalists; in other words, do more with less in order to minimize damage. But as architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart point out in this provocative, visionary book, such an approach only perpetuates the one-way, "cradle to grave" manufacturing model, dating to the Industrial Revolution, that creates such fantastic ...more
Paperback, 193 pages
Published April 22nd 2002 by North Point Press (first published 2002)
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Lisa
Dec 03, 2007 rated it liked it
Three stars doesn't quite do justice to this book. Its ideas merit five stars, but the text sags a bit and tends to repeat itself a lot, thereby losing some power.

What the text lacks in eloquence, however, it makes up for in tactility. I couldn't stop petting this book. Its "synthetic paper" pages felt so resilient and smooth and sleek. The authors chose to make a recyclable, "treeless" book from from plastic resins and inorganic fillers. It is waterproof and with a certain treatment its pages
...more
Daniel
Jul 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anybody with opinions on environmentalism, industry.
The central issue in this book is the notion that we can manufacture products and infrastructure that are really, actually good for the environment instead of simply being "less bad".

Here's an example of what on Earth that could possibly mean. In making paper, you have two options. (1) You can cut down a tree to make clean, high-quality paper, but on a large scale this involves massive deforestation and the annihilation of ecosystems. (2) You can recycle old paper. However, paper fibers get shor
...more
Bill
Apr 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
TL;DR Defines an obvious problem and then offers no realistic solution to address it.

I enjoyed the first half of this book, which was a staggering indictment of the industrialized consumer economy. The authors then offer a manifesto for reshaping it so that growth could be positive. For example, if cars cleaned the air instead of polluting it, we would see more cars as a positive outcome, not something to lament. Despite the authors working in this field for decades, there weren't a lot of case
...more
Koen Crolla
Did you know that before the Industrial Revolution, everyone grew their own food? That it was only during the Industrial Revolution that factory workers no longer had enough time to farm and were forced to move to the city and depend on others for it? That banks and stock markets and what have you all came into existence only during the Industrial Revolution, to support the new-born Capitalist Machine?
Oh, how naïve you were to think non-agrarian middle classes and banks were around for millennia
...more
Nick
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Everyone on the planet should read this book. The authors, one a chemist, and the other an architect, have thought more deeply about what "green" truly means (in terms of the environment) than anybody else. What they say will surprise you. They are not big fans of recycling, for example, because most things that are recycled were not designed for same, and it takes a lot of energy to cycle them 'down' to a lower use (like recycling paper). Instead, they argue for designing products from the grou ...more
dara
Nov 12, 2010 rated it did not like it
Be more like ants and cherry trees. I just saved you the trouble of reading this repetitive bore.

Other than that, be prepared for rhetorical questions--basically the same one using a different example or with slight variations in phrasing: "What would have happened, we sometimes wonder, if the Industrial Revolution had taken place in societies that emphasize the community over the individual, and where people believed not in a cradle-to-grave life cycle but in reincarnation?"

Seriously, I just sa
...more
Andrew K.
Dec 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: environmentalism
Pretty much as advertised -- a screed (in a good way) against the normal cradle-to-grave paradigm of consumerism and short-sighted product design. For instance: Isn't it funny that in, say, apple juice boxes, the product inside has a shorter shelf life than the packaging? Why would the packaging be more durable than its product? Wouldn't it be cool if packaging was designed to be tossed into your yard, decompose in weeks, and maybe even contain a wildflower seed that would germinate?

Cradle to Cr
...more
Ben Rogers
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who cares about the earth
Amazing book.

Reusing is splendid.
Recycling is, recycling.
Reducing is even better.
But if we don't stop how things are made, things are still going to deteriorate the earth.

I am a huge fan of choosing what I buy based on how things are packaged - if it is sustainable.

This is another one of those books that will change your life (for the better) if you really take these recommendations to heart.
example: I don't even have a baby, and suddenly I want to use cloth diapers! HAHH!!

Highly recommende
...more
Preston Kutney
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
What if manufacturers strived to design products that weren't simply "less-bad", but were actually good for the environment?
This is the rhetorical question that the book asks over and over in many forms.

Many of the ideas and the intent of the book are 5-star-worthy; the writing and rhetoric, however, are not.

I thought key flaw in this book was naiveté - the authors were simply overly idealistic. Asking questions like "Imagine how useful it would be if industry had a way to recover that copper i
...more
Dennis
Sep 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
Cradle to Cradle is a essentially book of questions, and a calling for people to not only re-think the way we make things, but to re-think the way we perceive ourselves as pitted against the natural world, rather than working with the natural world. The age old paradigm of conquering nature and bend (or in many cases break it) to fit our needs is outmoded,short-sighted, and, in fact, harmful not only to humans but the entire natural system.

The concept of Cradle to Cradle replaces the concept of
...more
Bryan Kibbe
May 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent and inspiring account of flourishing, ecologically minded design. At the core of the book is a paradigm shift from eco-efficient design that focuses on simply using less materials (that is, being less bad) to instead eco-effective design that reimagines products that do not simply use less material, but might actually productively contribute to the lives of other persons and the natural world. Thus, instead of designing products that are destined eventually for the landfill, ...more
Jono
Aug 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Designers
The authors tell an encouraging and interesting story about our approach to product development and use today. One where the product 'lifecycle' is from 'cradle' to 'grave' - a product is made and when it dies it goes 'away.' They give lots of good examples of a) why that is a bad thing and b) how we can do it better by opting for a cradle to cradle mentality.

What I liked most about this book was how they peeled apart the subtle metaphors that strongly affect our outlook today for products. Thin
...more
Ron
Dec 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Sweet and sour on this book:

Sweet:

-- Is a nice philosophic groundwork for re-thinking our relationship to the earth, to manufacturing, to design. Broad and all-encompassing.

-- Some potent ideas about how processes and materials work can or don't work in an ecologically sensible way. Tying things back to simple logic is a consistent method that is effective here.

-- printed on synthetic paper, a wonderful demonstration of the book's argument

-- a quote from Hildegard von Bingen, for god's sakes!

So
...more
Steve
Mar 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
I'm not sure what to think of this book. It's kind of like the antithesis of "An Inconvenient Truth." Where Al Gore said humans are destroying the planet, but you can make it all OK by replacing a lightbulb, "Cradle to Cradle" suggests that everything you currently do for the environment is not good enough. The authors attack all recycling as "downcycling" and criticize most energy-conscious building models. But they don't offer clear alternatives or helpful advice for finding products that foll ...more
Rachyl
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I learned so much from this book. Production and consumerism wasn't really a part of environmentalism that I was overly interested in before this book. I thought it was important. But I also more or less thought it was a lost cause. That we would need huge technological advances before we could make any changes. Apparently, I've just been reading the wrong books.
I would say though that it needs a different introduction. It works just fine for the first two chapters of the book where we discuss
...more
Kelsey  May
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I dream of the ideas set forth in this book becoming reality. ❤
Phil
May 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Captains of industry and environmentalists of any stripe
A very interesting book that ought to be required reading for anyone at least marginally interested in the environmental catastrophe we humans seem poised to create.

The authors' vision for a future of abundance challenges the long-established paradigm of environmentalist thought, conservation. They argue that the focus on conservation and efficiency is misguided, because under that paradigm we are still using damaging techonologies, only less of them. Instead we should be striving for what they
...more
Tal Allweil
Jul 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A lot of environmental books/movies leave me feeling hopeless and terrified (a la McKibben's Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, the movie The Future of Food, etc.) - but this book provided a high-level overview of how to implement the necessary infrastructural changes to allow society to proceed in a sustainable, non-destructive way.

It deals with the topics of how goods are manufactured both from the perspective of how we expect them to be made (a cradle-to-grave mentality, if they eve
...more
Somayeh
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am wondering why they do not teach this content at schools. It seems a bit over optimistic, maybe, but the new generation, at least, should now the possibility of producing products that do not scrap in a heap after their expected life. I was not aware of that, although always am looking for ways to reduce plastic usage and to recycle… but I was not mindful of Down-cycling, for example, as a main problem of recycling, or about the design of the non-hybrid products in a way that at the end they ...more
Sarah
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A great topic, but not the best presentation. Other books may cover this topic better (such as Slow Death By Rubber Duck maybe).

A lot of important information in here. Even recycled materials can create hazardous dust (phthalates) with normal use. The authors have a very clear concept of how to create products that can be broken down into restructurable components, but the key is in being able to easily separate manufactured and natural ingredients. There are some great examples of how green bui
...more
Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership
One of Cambridge Sustainability's Top 50 Books for Sustainability, as voted for by our alumni network of over 3,000 senior leaders from around the world. To find out more, click here.

Cradle to Cradle begins where eco-efficiency ends. Eco-efficiency, according to McDonough and Braungart, is just about making a bad system a little less bad. Eco-effectiveness, on the other hand, is about redesigning products and services to make them good - bigger and better in a way that replenishes, restores and
...more
Jim Razinha
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Scary. And educational - I was shocked to learn that chromium is used in leather tanning. Bottom line - doing less bad is still no good. Bottomer line - we have to change just about everything that we do. Cradle to grave is fallacious. As for throwing away - there is no more "away".



While the book is really aimed at industry, there's a message for everyday humans. This book is idealistic and unrealistic, but that bottom line above still stares us in the face and in the end something must be done
...more
Benedict
Jun 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: ecopreneurs
McDonough and Braungart demonstrate that design may be the key element in a (un)sustainable product's lifecycle. They show that products can be designed that are fully "bio-integratable" (including natural breakdown and absorption processes), where all the parts are fully reusable and that beautiful, functional and affordable, too.

They stress a triple win philosophy: Cradle to Cradle (cycle) success means ecological harmony, social equity and economic profitability. All products need to score we
...more
GONZA
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is really very interesting and clear. Three years ago I attended a lecture by one of the authors, and I found this upcycling idea really brilliant and reading the book only confirmed my original idea. I share only slightly less their optimistic view, but still, I'm a bit too cynical by nature.

Veramente molto interessante e chiaro questo libro. Tre anni fa avevo assistito ad una conferenza di uno degli autori e avevo trovato questa idea dell'upcycling veramente geniale e leggere il libr
...more
Sally
Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
It was not the easiest read; I probably waded through more than half. The ideas of designing production and products so that there is minimal or no waste, and multiple processes can benefit from each other is certainly elegant and timely. We have spent way too long squandering resources by using whatever portion we need in the moment without much regard to waste and pollution.

Revolutionary and a long ways off from being implemented, but necessary seeds of thought to plant for our future.
Maeve
Mar 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this read. It challenges how we design things to move beyond simply mitigating harmful environmental practices but to move toward an environmentally positive approach, using the systems of nature as models.
Amanda
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read this one when it came out, so many years ago, and I now realized how much it influenced some of the hippie-ish choices I make in my own life, particularly my predilection for natural cleaning supplies and preowned items. But it was immensely depressing to read about these hopes and visions for remaking our world into a place where everything is designed to be beneficial, as opposed to cheap and harmful, from more than 15 years ago, and to see how little of it has been implemented, and how ...more
Andrew Shine
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. So this rating is a difficult one, because I agree with the principle that products should be designed with reuse and return-to-earth features in mind. But damn, I found the authors to be uninspiring and smug. The idea is so revolutionary, but I feel little motivation hearing it come from them. And some of their conclusions I think are flat out ridiculous. One of the worst offenders was the passage about how we shouldn’t explore Mars because ...more
Jayesh
Dec 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm ignoring the standard BS such a "best-seller" pop-science book has to be laden with.
The standard screed to holistically think about the effect of product design would likely be considered uncontroversial by literally anyone.
Kudos to the authors for clearly pointing out out how many "eco-friendly" products are not necessarily better than their previous "non-eco-friendly" ones and there are always trade-offs to be made in all engineering problems.

What's interesting to me is that this book was
...more
Paulo
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
The idea behind this book is radical and interesting: it's central tennet is that we should try to make our own production mimic ecosystems where waste is food. The revolutionary idea, however, lacks in concrete examples despite how long the authors have been around (unclear as to whether this is due to confidentiality issues), and ends up resorting to pretty obvious suggestions (don't use materials that kill you, do use materials that can feed the environment or, wait for it, instead of rethink ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
FULL Creative Lib...: Cradle to Cradle 5 10 Mar 26, 2014 10:45AM  
Eco-readers: Week 2 (Chapter 3-4) 1 3 Aug 14, 2012 11:46AM  
Eco-readers: Week 1 (Prologue-Chapter 2) 2 3 Aug 14, 2012 11:30AM  
Better World Book...: Cradle to Cradle 1 8 Dec 22, 2011 05:28PM  

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William McDonough: designer, advisor, co-author of Cradle to Cradle + The Upcycle. Time magazine “Hero for the Planet” who is changing the design of the world.”

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“Here's where redesign begins in earnest, where we stop trying to be less bad and we start figuring out how to be good.” 7 likes
“The average lawn is an interesting beast: people plant it, then douse it with artificial fertilizers and dangerous pesticides to make it grow and to keep it uniform-all so that they can hack and mow what they encouraged to grow. And woe to the small yellow flower that rears its head!” 7 likes
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