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William McDonough & Cradle to Cradle design (3/5)

When architect William McDonough first got involved in looking at materials in 1984, he had been commissioned to design the headquarters for the
Environmental Defense Fund in New York and started asking manufacturers what was in their products to avoid off-gassing. What he discovered: “most people don’t know what they’re making. Their suppliers send them products and they put them in their products”.

Society’s response to the toxins in our products is simply to warn everyone, explains McDonough. If you walk into a building in California you see a sign with the following:

  • Proposition 65 Warning: The State of California Requires that we warn you that the property containers chemicals known in the State of California to cause cancer, and birth defects, and other reproductive harm.”

McDonough and his partner William Branaugh have gone on to work with companies with annual revenues of over a trillion and a half dollars to help them know more about what they’re making. Their Cradle to Cradle design framework focuses on:

  1. Designing with materials that are “nutrients”, that can return to the earth without causing waste, but rather as food for some other product or living species.
  2. Designing products to be recycled
  3. Designing systems to recover and recycle nutrients.

In this speech McDonough, co-creator of the Cradle to Cradle design concept and certification process, talks about how we can design a better world- buildings, cars, products, etc- without producing any waste. In part three of his talk, McDonough discusses what it takes to design without waste or dangerous byproducts.

See part 4 of McDonough’s speech.