When thinking about transitioning to a circular economy, a big question in your head might be, how can I implement these principles in practice? When discussing implementing circularity, people often refer to Cradle to Cradle.
So what’s it all about?
The Cradle to Cradle® design framework is inspired by nature: The aim is not only to minimize negative influences but also to leave a positive ecological footprint. As a result, products, processes, buildings, and cities will emerge which are safe for humans, healthy for the environment, and successful for business.
Part The German chemist Michael Braungart and the American architect William McDonough have developed the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) concept that describes the circular economy with a principle of two continuous circles.
The main principle is to eliminate the concept of waste; waste becomes food.
This principle is derived from nature with its closed nutrient loops. All “waste” is a nutrient for another organism.
Michael Braungart often refers to the cherry tree that has inspired him to explain the concept.
It is not about reducing harm but creating “good,” beneficial materials and products from the beginning.
The cherry tree is not trying to produce fewer flowers. Contrary, it creates an abundance of flowers and cherries. But everything the tree creates goes back into a biological system and is food for other organisms. The cherry tree makes soil, makes oxygen, and cleans the air. It is not toxic; it is not dangerous; it is the opposite. It is all nutrition.
On the contrary, what we humans do is stated by Michael Braungart: We do the wrong things perfectly, and they are perfectly wrong. So why shouldn’t we be able to produce like other organisms and create nutrients instead of waste?
Cradle to Cradle divides products into two spheres. A technical and a biological one, as you can see in the graphic.
So how does this work? First, we have to redesign products. On the technical side, we have materials like metals that can be used forever, like in chairs or washing machines. Durable consumer goods are broken down into separate raw materials after use and returned to the technical cycle. The material quality is retained, and downcycling is avoided.
On the biological side are the products that dissolve back into nature, like cosmetics or natural fiber textiles. If these two cycles stay separate, the concept of waste will be obsolete.
In reality, products often contain parts belonging to the two cycles. For example, wooden furniture might contain technical materials, like metal screws or a glass door beside the main material, wood, that belongs to the biological cycle.
So the essential preconditions that enable this system are the possibility of disassembling all parts and using healthy, non-toxic materials in the first place that can stay in circles for a long time.
If you want to get started with circular design you can read more about it in this post or download a checklist with 10 tips to help you begin with it below.
Image © EPEA Part of Drees and Sommer and you can find more information about C2C at: www.epea.com