What Does “Cradle-to-Cradle” Mean?

Mon, Jul 27, 2009

Building Basics

If you’re human, you’re probably familiar with the process of digestion: you consume food to gain energy and then dispose of excess, unusable waste. That is, you excuse yourself, use the restroom, answer nature’s call, or however you choose to refer to the processes of defecation and urination. Typically we view the products of our trips to the little boys’ or girls’ room as disgusting, sickly, and unmentionable, and this could very well be an evolutionary measure to assure that we don’t consume these – for us, at least – poisonous byproducts. But if we think about “waste” differently, with nature’s bigger picture in mind, it’s clear that digestion doesn’t end when we flush the toilet. Plants and animals feed off of our waste; it keeps the planet thriving. Ideally, nothing is waste because it can be used by someone else for another purpose.

Challenge yourself to think of garbage in the same way. Instead of tossing that plastic bottle in the recycling bin, ask yourself how you could use it for something else – a paint container, a bird feeder, a bath toy. Now imagine you could plant that bottle in your backyard along with a few seeds and grow a tree. This is how the concept of “Cradle to Cradle” works: products, buildings, even economics and social systems are designed with sustainability and healthy life cycles in mind.

One can’t claim that a project follows Cradle-to-Cradle’s criteria unless MBDC certifies it first. MBDC has four classifications of the danger of a material’s chemical levels, denoted by four colors: green, yellow, orange, and red. The warmer in hue the label, the more environmentally harmful the material is deemed to be. The Cradle-to-Cradle (or C2C for short) protocol lists both human health criteria and environmental relevance criteria.

For a real-world example of a C2C-certified product, check out the John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies, located in Pomona, California. The center’s architecture works with natural seasonal and solar patterns to maintain comfortable temperatures within its buildings while minimizing energy output and all of its food is grown in a completely organic garden. All of its buildings were constructed with fast-growing, bio-products such as straw and cedar wood. Click here to visit their site.

For more information about Cradle-to-Cradle, visit MBDC’s website or watch the documentary Waste=Food, located online free and legally here.

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