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Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  10,161 ratings  ·  919 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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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Dec 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Sweet and sour on this book:


-- 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!

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
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
Keith Alverson
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
The main theme of this book is that rather than deplete fresh natural capital to do things with, and then throw away waste products, we should consider tapping waste products for materials of value - and that we should design things in order to better facilitate such circularity. The book is very (very) repetitive. It is also overly simplistic. I am wondering, for example, what to do with mine, now that I have read it. Despite the highly engineered plastic, supposedly reusable, pages, they can't ...more
Kelsey  May
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I dream of the ideas set forth in this book becoming reality. ❤
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Apr 03, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite an inspiring book filled with possibilities about how we could live, could imagine our future. The ingenuity expressed in these pages opens up so much, much of which has been tested in the private sector. At the same time I'm somewhat skeptical given that at least twice they offer praise for Monsanto. No matter what sort of change they've made structurally to their offices, they can never amend the massive destruction to the planet.
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.
Jul 28, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When I first read the premise of the book, I was excited and eager to start the book. The ideas were interesting and case studies were compelling...

But all that broke down when I looked up the author (note to self: do this before getting involved with a book). I stumbled upon a FastCompany profile of the author, William McDonough.

This quote from the profile deftly summarizes McDonough's character:
The Oberlin case is part of a larger pattern, some of his former colleagues say. “McDonough doesn’t
Dana DesJardins
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Please read this book. EVERYONE.
It invites a complete paradigm shift, coaxing, "Don't just reinvent the recipe, rethink the menu." An architect and chemist partnered to design a circular economy, where people rent services (like the use of a car) rather than buying products (the car would then be disassembled and remade rather than recycled). Their premise is that waste equals food: byproducts of material extraction can be used rather discarded. For example, air conditioning compressors waste th
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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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You know the saying: There's no time like the present...unless you're looking for a distraction from the current moment. In that case, we can't...
6 likes · 3 comments
“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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