Architect William McDonough and chemist Dr. Michael Braungart made a huge splash on the green scene in 2002 with their book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things and have since created an entire movement. Their Cradle to Cradle (C2C) framework is a paradigm shift to eliminate waste through innovative design. Originally developed in 1995, the framework posits that sustainable design, based on the laws of nature, can transform the consumer economy into a regenerative force. The C2C model provides a blueprint for redesigning products and ingredients to become nutrients, enabling old products to become the raw material for new goods and services.
They have since created a C2C certification program (through MBDC), for companies and products that adhere to the C2C criteria. Companies such as Herman Miller, Method, Steelcase and many others have products that have been C2C certified.
And last week, they announced that they were starting the Green Products Innovation Institute, Inc. (GPII), a non-profit organization based in California focused on transforming the making and consumption of things into a regenerative force for the planet. The announcement happened at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, CA, and included GPII founders and supporters, including William McDonough, Governor Schwarzenegger, Adam Lowry, James Cameron, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and many other political, business and design leaders.
The Institute will provide consumers with a valuable resource to ensure that the products they use daily at home, school and work—in every aspect of their lives—are safe and healthy. Rather than focusing on how to make the ingredients in consumer products “less bad,” the GPII is designed to be a resource for those who aspire to be “more good” and achieve new levels of environmental and human health and safety for all products sold in California (and soon, beyond).
The Institute, using the C2C protocols, will work with leaders from academia, the NGO environmental community, government and industry to establish a rating system for evaluating products. Products that meet the criteria will receive the Cradle to Cradle product mark. In addition to the data on toxic chemicals that will be collected as a part of the state’s Toxic’s Information Clearinghouse, there will also be a list of safer “positive” alternative chemicals list created that will enable greater innovation by industry. That innovation will, in turn, lead to safer products and bring us closer to a global Cradle to Cradle economy. Using the C2C framework, the GPII is set to transform how companies design, manufacture and use chemicals, fostering innovation and job growth in a new green chemistry sector.
As an architect, I want to make buildings healthy and choose materials that will have future lives, but it isn’t always easy to know what to avoid, as well as what are the best alternative solutions. That is where GPII can help. The creation of GPII is an exciting step for making C2C principles more accessible—not only for consumers to understand, but also for designers, architects, and companies to adopt in their designs and products. The C2C ideas are big, and the Institute has the promise to make the big innovative ideas a built mainstream reality.
Govenor Schwarzenegger brought a Green Chemistry program into law requiring the toughest, most comprehensive regulatory regime in the country for identifying harmful chemicals in consumer products and require manufacturers of those products to evaluate safer alternatives. This law also gives authority to California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to take action for imposing restrictions and bans. The DTSC and GPII will be collaborating on strong standards and offering solutions.
“The time is now for us to go beyond simply being “less bad” and to lead the world in the invention and innovation of “more good” with Cradle to Cradle products and a prosperous Cradle to Cradle economy. Together, we will inspire and transform the world.”—Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Not only am I a huge William McDonough and C2C fan, but I am also proud to be an advisor with GPII.—Michelle Kaufmann