Designer’s Toolkit : From Planned Obsolescence to Design for Environment (DfE)- II: C2C

C2C certification by MBDC

Cradle to Cradle (C2C) : The 2nd tool in Designer’s Toolkit

Before we go into this tool of C2C, let’s look at these 2 questions?

“How can we love all the children of the world of all times all the time?”

“What was it before it was a bottle and what it will be after it is no longer a bottle?”

These are some of the questions that designers are asking to address the sustainability issues. The first one is asked by designers at MBDC (McDonnough Braungart Design Chemistry), a C2C consulting firm. The second one is a question asked at Method, a radical detergent company with a cult like following.

The idea is to close the loop in the product’s life cycle, where in the  waste becomes the feedstock for the next product. It is based on the ‘Precautionary Principle’ that prompts companies to take a precautionary  action before scientific certainty. It also expands on the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) that a manufacturer has for product’s lifecycle – that responsibility doesn’t end upon selling to the customer but extends to the ultimate disposal of materials.

Waste equals food

The traditional linear system of Extraction, Processing, Manufacturing, Distribution, Consumption and Disposal or simply put by many – ‘take, make, break’ is fast moving towards a cyclic system of cradle-cradle design thinking where waste streams of one industry can be served as a raw material for another, in the process completely eliminating waste.

Michael Braungart and Bill McDonnough of MBDC are long standing proponents of C2C design thinking, developing a multi-attribute eco-label that assesses a product’s safety to humans and environment.

Numerous companies like Aveda of Estee Lauder group, Pepsico, Nike, Volvo have taken the C2C road. To get a sense of what companies are up to, let’s explore some examples.

  • Eco-system sharing by Coke and Patagonia: Though belonging to totally different industries, they share eco-resources – discarded PET bottles from Coke are converted into pellets which Patagonia uses for making its polyester Polar Fleece, shirts and pullovers, thus preventing over 100 million plastic bottles from ending up in the Atlantic or landfills.
  • Caterpillar, manufacturer of heavy machinery has been re-manufacturing its old engines as new since 20 years. This is only possible when engines have been designed in such a way that they can either be completely re-manufactured or recycled to keep any waste from going into the landfills.
  • GM having learnt its lesson has saved millions of dollars by diverting their waste streams back into the loop, which otherwise would’ve ended up in landfills. Out of its 76 factories worldwide, more than half are ‘landfill-free certified’
  •  Terracycle, a US based, now fast growing internationally, up-cycles all the waste thrown by people around the world to convert into food and sells it to different industries as a raw material. It even pays people to get them to collect and drop the waste in collection centers. 
  • Plant Bottle: Developed by Coke and now adopted by Heinz also, the recyclable plant bottle is made up of 30% plant material. Certainly a step in right direction.

Resource recovery  is a process through which either products, materials and energy values are captured from the waste or residual streams and reused in other or future production-consumption cycles.

Also read 2 companies using “R2″ as a Proactive Marketing Strategy

Designers need to think in terms of ‘getting more from same’. Some one aptly said – There is no waste – only wasted resources – only if we could put them to use.

The Circular Economy 100 or CE100 is another great initiative recently started by the Ellen Macarthur foundation. The circular economy is a generic term for an economy that is regenerative by design. Materials flows are of two types, biological materials, designed to reenter the biosphere, and technical materials, designed to circulate with minimal loss of quality, in turn entraining the shift towards an economy ultimately powered by renewable energy. All living, non-living, man-made things put something into the earth – the question to ask is – How do we minimize on that? Here’s a short video for further understanding.

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