PRODUCTS ARE BRANDED with all sorts of indicators that suggest authenticity and credibility, from “iPod ready” to “dentist approved.” (Granted, some claims are more reliable than others.) Now, thanks to a coalition of leaders in building sustainability, you can add “cradle to cradle” to the list.
Coined by Product-Life Institute cofounder Walter Stahel two decades ago, the phrase “cradle to cradle” describes materials and products that can be reintegrated into the manufacturing stream or are biodegradable.
Architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart gave the term, and the concept, a boost with their 2002 book of the same name. In it, the authors encouraged environmentally safe and healthy materials, material reutilization, efficient energy and water usage, and social responsibility.
A view of the Material ConneXion's product library in New York, which will feature products that have been certified by a new condition of organizations that support the cradle-to-cradle design philosophy. Material ConneXion also has libraries in Milan, Cologne, and Bangkok.
In an effort to push the design industry even further, McDonough and Braungart's sustainability-focused consultancy, MBDC, has teamed up with material resource library Material ConneXion and the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA). Under the Cradle to Cradle banner, the coalition will offer three types of consulting: materials assessment, process evaluation and certification, and material and product development. Material ConneXion, a company founded in 1997 by George Beylerian, will improve access to products and the ability to market the certification, while the EPEA will aid in research and development.
Workshops will teach design teams how to incorporate cradle-to-cradle practices into their daily operations. The material and product development division will allow manufacturers and designers to tap the shared knowledge of the Cradle to Cradle team in the creation of new products. The team's assessment work will certify products as Cradle to Cradle, helping architectural specifiers and consumers to distinguish between products that claim to be sustainable and products that truly are.