Greener by Design 2009: Putting Designers in the Center of Cradle-to-Cradle Thinking


Photos by Jaymi Heimbuch

The Greener By Design conference kicks off today in San Francisco, but couldn't wait to get designers thinking about the cradle-to-cradle way of working. Yesterday a workshop was held that offered some incredible inspiration for the 36 designers in attendance, including designers from major companies like Disney, Johnson & Johnson, Hewlett Packard, and more. They learned how to make their designs not only do no harm, but do 100% good. Led by Lisa Friedman and Laszlo Gyorffy of Enterprise Development Group, the workshop helped designers jump into the middle of cradle-to-cradle thinking so that all the products coming out of their imaginations will do no harm to the earth.

What is Cradle to Cradle?
The inspiration behind cradle to cradle comes from William McDonough who says:

Our current way of creating things is to take materials from the cradle of oil, of a forest, of a mine, put those materials into a product, and then put that product into the grave of a landfill, as William McDonough puts it. Cradle to grave is absolutely unsustainable, as we're witnessing. McDonough states that over 90% of what we use to make stuff ends up in a landfill within a few months.

Cradle to cradle means that a product will either be able to go straight back into the soil and provide nutrients as if it had always been part of the soil, or go back into the industrial cycle for infinite reuse without degradation. McDonough pushes designers to think about the ways in which design can do 100% good. And that means imagining what 100% good looks like.

Turning to the Cherry Tree
For an idea of what 100% good looks like, designers were told to look towards a cherry tree.

Trees do an immeasurable amount of good, from sequestering carbon, providing habitat for wildlife, preventing soil erosion, and more. And at the end of its life, it goes back into the earth to provide even more life to other organisms. So, designers were asked to think of their products in the same way - how can their products do the same good as a cherry tree?

The Next Industrial Revolution
Friedman and Gyorffy discussed the idea that we are moving into a new industrial revolution. Instead of the old way of producing things, where it was more about look and feel than impact, we are just starting to move towards a new industrial movement in which sustainability and cradle to cradle design will be embedded in everything. It will change the way the world around us is designed.

The four hour workshop helped train the attending designers how to move into that new revolution and be leaders in it by designing everything with the goal of 100% good.

More on Greener By Design
Greener By Design 2009 Will Explore Greener Products for Leaner Times
Come to the Greener by Design Conference

Tags: Artists | Cradle To Cradle | Designers | ICFF/ New York Design Week