Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. Authors: William McDonough and Michael Braungart.

The authors were team members of the 1991 Hannover Principles to guide the design of the 2000 World’s Fair. McDonough has an architecture firm in Charlottesville, Va., and from 1994 to 1999 was dean of the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture. Braungart is a German chemist who for several years headed the chemistry section of Greenpeace.

A new industrial revolution is on which is gradually creating a more sustainable economy. Many companies and designers now incorporate responsible and mindful choices concerning the environment throughout their business practices. They focus on sustainability, fair trade and labor with the end goal to offer consumers environmentally healthy products. This book’s concept is “to frame design as a beneficial, regenerative force—one that seeks to create ecological footprints to delight in, not lament” and the authors are part of this change as radical as the 18th to 19th century industrial revolution. The book’s title echoes this mindfulness as contrasted to cradle to grave (the landfill).

So what is upcycling? The term was coined by McDonough and Braungart, and they state that upcycling is a component of sustainability in which waste materials are used to provide a new product in its second life of similar or greater value. Aluminum and glass, for example, can usually be upcycled into the same quality of aluminum and glass as the original products.

Book publishing has significantly transformed the way books are distributed and read. Case in point? We used our e-reader for this review, but the real-book’s design echoes its message: it is intended to be upcycled into a new book of the same quality, not recycled which downgrades the quality of the original product.

Cradle to Cradle argues in favor of making all human production either upcyclable in the way this book can be or completely biodegradable for use as fertilizer. Like biodegradable packaging that is ok to toss and appliances that can be returned to the manufacture for upcycling, the book argues for increased economic activity beneficial to the planet. We recommend this book to those familiar with the issues of environmental design and those completely new to the topic. Remember all recycling delays the inevitable whether upcycling, upstyling or downcycling – it still ends up in a landfill somewhere. The key here is to begin with environmental design that benefits our planet.

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