Cradle to Cradle®is not some new age mumbo jumbo. The concept originated in 2002 and is explained in the book by William McDonough, an American architect and Michael Braungart, a German chemist, “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things”.
The idea is that products should be created with “intelligent design” or with conscious intent they would be repurposed when products were worn out or thrown out.
It makes sense the authors would turn to nature for inspiration. Everything in the natural world is designed perfectly. Energy does not die, it just changes form. So, they compared human industry with nature where ‘materials are nutrients circulating in healthy, safe metabolisms’.
With nature as a guiding influence, it was determined that humans could revamp industry to be more ‘eco-effective’. When applied to the carpet industry, manufacturers could become cognizant during the design process of how to up-cycle carpet after it has served its purpose.
Keep in mind, the modality does not suggest an alchemic type process of changing worn out carpet into brand new carpet. Rather, it advocates putting together a product that can be taken apart and repurposed again and again ‘in a continuous and virtuous cycle’. At its essence, Cradle to Cradle® is all about eliminating the notion of waste.
Remember, all this innovation must take place in the design phase of a product. Various design features must be explored that would encourage the disbandment and reclamation of worn carpeting.
This requires a major shift in human consciousness where we eschew our old “cradle to grave” mentality and embrace “Cradle to Cradle®”. In adapting this philosophy, the desired outcome is to eventually end our need to keep drawing on nature’s resources.
Let’s explore the “cradle to grave” philosophy. Very simply it is – we do things this way, because we have always done things this way. Where carpeting is concerned, the “grave” translates to a landfill. Or, we might say filled-land.
The authors of “Cradle to Cradle®” advise that about each seven years carpeting is replaced. Perhaps it’s simply no longer in vogue or the color has faded. At any rate, square feet of carpeting, equaling millions are deposited in landfills. Now, here’s the kicker – did you know it takes approximately 50 years for natural materials i.e. wool to degrade?
Even more astonishingly, nylon and other manmade fibers take 250,000 years to decompose. Are you beginning to see what horrific amounts of waste humans have made because we’ve always done things this way? And we just focused on carpeting!
The authors went on to acknowledge corporate efforts toward going green, such as calculating their carbon footprint, finding ways to reduce it and improving operations. However, they contend these efforts do not bring about holistic change.
Indeed, select companies are already espousing the new paradigm, “Cradle to Cradle®” by repurposing old carpeting into different products, such as automobile parts. Alternatively, millions of used plastic bottles are being re-crafted as polyester fibers for carpeting.
Designing products that can be recycled again and yet again is no longer the wave of the future, it is NOW! So, whoever decreed we have to keep doing things the way we’ve always done them was wrong! Right?