Cradle to Cradle by GroenGemak
The design principe "Cradle to Cradle" means taking the end of a product's life into consideration while designing it. This leads to a few design constraints, that can trigger creative and sustainable solutions on projects of any scale.
The idea behind Cradle to Cradle is to design products in such a way that they can be reused after their useful life, instead of being dumped on a large pile that is in everybody's way. Or, which is basically the same, burn it so it fills our atmosphere with the gasseous form of a terminated product.
Although this gives an extra constraint to factor into a design, Cradle to Cradle is actually a positive, constructive force that tickles us to be more creative. It is also a lot smarter, because it can help to avoid that supplies of raw material decline.
Cradle to Cradle aims for sustainable designs. You will basically want to design so that your product can be broken apart into components, each of which can either be recycled the natural way on a compost pile, orthe technical way by reusing the materials used.
A carpet manufacturer can probably win useful materials from a discarded carpet, especially if it is a carpet from their own factory. This is probably more efficient than using generic recycling paths, because the exact materials used are harder to establish in those generic paths. An inspiring thought in line with Cradle to Cradle is therefore to rent carpets, rather than buying them.
A technical production process requires raw materials of high quality, which will be mixed into a final product. If that product cannot be decomposed to the original raw materials, it eventually ends up as a clump of blurred materials that make reuse highly unlikely, especially if we insist on using raw materials of high purity as inputs for technical construction.
To ensure that we can continue our technical processes in the long run, we should try to close this cycle. We should aim for recycling all materials without use of quality. We may prefer to prin our newspapers on plastic carriers, with ink that can be washed off and subsequently boiled down for reuse.
All this may sound like advanced technology, but Cradle to Cradle is pimarily a way of looking at building and production processes of any size. If you redesign your garden you may choose to use untreated wood that you plan to replace in 10 or 20 years time. Larch and Acacia are types of wood that can support untreated use. After its useful life, your wooden structure can be rotted down by insertion of mushroom plugs, from which you may harvest edible mushrooms for years to come. Also, the old-style farmer's gates are often made from tree branches, which are replaced when necessary. That too could be called Cradle to Cradle.
Just like avoidance of paint or impregnating chemicals is useful to think about, it is good to avoid glue and nails. You will probably never take nails out for reuse, which you would do with screws. Glue often lasts longer than the materials connected by it. Are you sure you want such a durable connection between your materials, or might your taste change in a few years? Could you perhaps replace the glue with a plastic that melts at a low temperature? Or could you use wallpaper glue that will dissolve in water and then be broken down by bacteria?
As soon as you factor a product's end-of-life into a design you start discovering ways of easing that end. This makes Cradle to Cradle a true eye-opener. But any design process is complicated, so it will remain a challenge to do the best thing. GroenGemak is available to step in and share its general design experience, creativity and knowledge of sustainable solutions during this process.