What is Cradle to Cradle®

Cradle to Cradle® concept (by William McDonough and Michael Braungart (2002) Cradle to Cradle®: Remaking the Way We Make Things;) is a new approach for designing intelligent products, processes and systems taking into account the entire life cycle of the product, optimizing material health, recyclabilty, renewable energy use, water efficiency and quality, and social responsibility.


Cradle to Cradle® design takes its inspiration from nature, in which all materials used can provide "nutrition" for nature or industry, maximize material value and safeguard ecosystems.


 Cradle to Cradle® concept eliminates the concept of waste entirely. The principles of Cradle to Cradle®[1] are:

  • waste equals food
  • use of solar energy
  • celebrate diversity

The purpose of the Cradle to Cradle® Design is to restore continuous cycles of biological as well as technical nutrients with long terms positive effects on profitability, the environment and human health.

Cradle to Cradle® design distinguishes between two types of products depending on their behaviour during use:

  • Products of Consumption as Biological Nutrients in the Biological Cycle and
  • Products of Service as Technical Nutrients in the Technical Cycle.


                                                       Picture 1 Nutrient cycles

The ideal Cradle to Cradle® product is designed so that all of its materials are selected to safely cycle within either a biological or technical metabolism and to be reused or recovered at their highest possible value. Material selection is an essential part in the development of a Cradle to Cradle® product. A designer needs to understand the human and ecological health characteristics of the materials under consideration. The principles of Cradle to Cradle® design can be applied to different range of units, entire city, regional plans and islands as well.

Large companies like Philips, DSM, Gansewinkel, etc. in the Netherlands are starting to see the economic and environmental potential by applying Cradle to Cradle® concept to manufacture their products.

[1] Environmental Protection and Encouragement Agency (EPEA); Available at: http://www.epea.com/english/cradle/vision.htm

Download the book: Inspired by Cradle to Cradle (language: English)

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