Book Review: Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, by William McDonough and Michael Braungart
Cradle to Cradle is one of those book that changes you. In other words, it is not a book that merely informs the reader. It is a book that precipitates a paradigm shift in how one things about ecology, design, economics, business and human relations. It is a book that seeks to change the very nature of how we do business and how we interact. It is a model for a new type of industrial revolution as well as a philosophical argument against nature as a tool of man and for man as being a tool of nature. What does that mean in practical terms? It means that we design buildings that clean the air, purify the water and produce more energy than the use, because then we are providing things to nature rather than simply taking things away from her and then converting those things into products that cannot be returned to nature because they are now toxic and often do not biodegrade. Thus the authors argue that products should either be able to return to the biological cycle (basically, soil and water) and safely biodegrade, or to the technical cycle to be infinitely recycled.
The best example of this is the book itself. When you pick it up it has a pleasant sheen to it, a certain crispness that is nice to hold and nice to look at. But it isn’t made from a tree. Rather, it is made from plastic polymers and inorganic fillers which not only make the book waterproof and highly durable, they also mean that when the book’s useful life ends it can be sent back to the manufacturer to be safely remade into a new book! In fact, the first chapter is called “This Book Is Not A Tree.” Why is it not a tree? Why not just use paper? Because, they argue, trees are far too precious resources to be used for writing down our ideas. The services trees render to us and other species is far greater than the benefit gained from cutting them down and writing on them. Furthermore, the plastic paper that they use is safe and infinitely recyclable, and in addition it is highly durable, pleasant and waterproof (you can read the book in the tub or at the beach without any worries!).