Book Review: Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

Review by: Aaron Hammond

Genre: Sustainability, Environment, Mind-Expanding

Authors: Braungart, Michael and William McDonough

Year published: 2002

Page count: 208


In Cradle to Cradle:Remaking the Way We Make Things Braungart and McDonough iterate the problems of the current industrial system. Its wastes should and could be reintroduced into the system as nutrients if it weren’t for our wasteful system that’s been in place since the Industrial Revolution. With the evolution of goods and the production of non-biodegradable materials, the concept of throwing things “away” has gone away. With that comes the notion of built-in obsolescence – products are designed to last a set amount of time so that the customer must buy a new model, disposing of the former.

The book proposes that when asked to “think outside the box,” perhaps one should rather think about why the box was there in the first place. Was it necessary? What purpose did it serve? How was it made? In assessing current production methods, this type of thought is key in realizing not only the consequences of our methods, but also possible solutions to them. Only in this way can one truly act responsible for the future, “for all the children of all species for all time.”

Why is this book important?

Cradle to Cradle isn’t just a book: it’s part of a larger movement and design apparatus. The book itself represents the authors desire for outreach and education about their work and the design revolution that needs to take place for us to continue living on this planet.

Braungart and McDonough have innovated in the chemical and architectural world for decades, working with governments, and founding their own company (McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry) as well as a non-profit (Cradle to Cradle Products Innovations Institute).  They also published a “sequel” to Cradle to Cradle on Earth Day 2013 – The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability — Designing for Abundance – that’s sure to please.

What I enjoyed most about the book?

I originally read this book for a class in college and immediately fell in with its thought-provoking pages and chapters. Not only are the ideas it puts forth interesting and a bit of a culture shock, the material the book’s printed on is fascinating and just as fine as real paper. Trees make oxygen, sequester carbon, fix nitrogen, distill water, photosynthesize, produce microclimates, self-replicate, and provide habitats for countless species. To use so resilient and elegant a resource to manufacture such an ephemeral product as paper is neither efficient nor ecological. I think the authors and publishers did a fantastic job putting their money where their mouth is by publishing on this new “paper.”

Any modern environmentalist needs to read this book. It has been a pleasure to re-read and I recommend it to everyone!

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