Waste can be used to add nutrients to the earth. Ever since engineers discovered the efficiency of piping sludge/sewege waste into water streams, we have been discarding that waste (and usually polluting the waters).

 

It could be used in a different way, but there are some problems with the waste stream. One being the liquid chemicals that might also be flushed down the drain, making our waste notably less than 100% organic.

 

Again, in order for our waste streams to truly work, products must be designed for an eventual reincarnation, rather than being sent “away”. If we can develop products that make people feel unique without that implying ‘no one else can use it when I’m done’, we can replenish more of the nutrients we take from the earth, more often, and in a safer way.

 

                   “There is no need for shampoo bottles, toothpaste tubes, yogurt and ice-cream cartons, juice containers, and other packaging to last decades (or even centuries) longer than what came inside them…Worry free packaging could safely decompose, or be gathered and used as fertilizer, bringing nutrients back to the soil.”

 

When looking at creating environmentally sensitive products, the Cradle to Cradle team makes sure they

 

                  “look carefully at the potential long term design legacy”

 

And that is something that all green manufacturers should do when designing a new product or redesigning an old one.

 

This chapter starts into the mildly confusing rant about what is good and what is just “less bad”. They use the example of the book that is made the old way and the new one made from recycled material and soy based ink. Then the question is posed: is the new way really “good” or better?The problem they see is that the new book used a chemical covering, which “isnt’ recyclable with the rest of the book” and that the paper has about “reached the limits of further use” since the paper has been recycled again. It’s inherently not that great since it used trees to begin with.

They revisit this idea in later chapters when discussing, is being a vegetarian really that “good” if you eat vegetables that use chemicals and are transported long distances. It’s really just “less bad”.

At any rate, we then are introduced to book three, “the book of the future”, one that is durable enough to last for generations and the whole book can be recycled (and no tress were harmed in the making of it).

Their main point is that things should be “upcycled” it should be continually used and biodegrade if neccesary (or reused for a differant purpose). We have to consider that the stuff must either be used forever or be able to return back to the earth.

Further, the products themselves can use reworking but the factories and systems, which deliver them to consumers should also work together with the environment to provide a pleasurable experience for employees, who will then do more valuable work and the surviving eco system will not be harmed.

It’s hard to sum up this chapter completely, the authors cover so much and give so many great examples but all I can say is this:

Ants “represent a larger biomass than humans on earth”. Yet, they use the earth contribute to it, make it better, while at the same time thriving off of it. Ants live everywhere. We are no ants, but this chapter makes me think we should adopt the principles of the ants. The principles of contributing to the well-being of the earth while thriving off it.

Cradle to Cradle: Chapter 2 starts with the bleak visions of population growth made by Thomas Malthus at the end of the 18th century, where he predicted that humans wouldn’t have enough resources to sustain ourselves. They track environmental writings by authors like Marsh, Thoureau, Leopold, and the creation of the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society. Then Silent Spring by Rachel Carson marked the true beginning of environmntal protection going mainstream.

As our machines have grown bigger in order to feed the needs of a rapidly growing population, some have tried to get across the point that we should use less stuff. The authors make the point that a commodity as scarce as oil should be saved only for emergencies. Solar energy should be able to sustain us if we use it in the right way.

Eco-efficiency is the key. A respect for natural ecosystems integrated with efficient manufacturing processes that suit the needs of everyone. And that includes everyone. “Reduce Reuse Recycle…and Regulate” is the next term the bring up. Regulation carries with it the fear of slowing down economic progress.

This quote about money, commerce and regulation rounds up a disappointing theme in manufacturing. It also may be a theme that can be changed through green initiatives, however.

“Money, the tool of commerce will corrupt the guardian. Regulation, the tool of the guardian, will slow down commerce. An example: a manufacturer might spend more money to provide an improved product under regulations, but its commercial customers, who want products quickly and cheaply, may be unwilling to absorb the extra costs. They may then find what they need elsewhere, perhaps offshore, where regulations are less stringent. In an unfortunate turnaround, the unregulated and potentially dangerous product is given a competitive edge.”

The beginning of Cradle to Cradle introduces us to the authors, William McDonough and Michael Braungart. Bill, the visionary and architect and Mike the Chemist and Activist, make a good team for illuminating the idea that we can have what we need and leave a planet for children forever.

I’m glad I have decided to read this book and it should be required reading for green manufacturers. It reads fast, does not baffle readers with complex systems. It lays out what is happening as far as harmful chemicals in everyday products, the negative ways that we dispose of old products, and much more.

Many companies are taking into consideration the needs of the planet. They have awoken to the fact that the ecosystem is changing, in part by the need to affordably produce goods for a large amount of people. If you’re reading this, or have read Cradle to Cradle, you already have some of understanding of how the movement towards sustinability is becoming the norm.

The opening chapter of the book takes us from the sinking of the Titanic (man losing to nature) and the Model T to, more recently, oil spills and mcmansion development designs. They don’t call anyone out per se but they do leave it up to the reader to grasp how our idea of progress is skewed.

The chapter ends by suggesting that we are already stepping in the right direction and will go on to describe the movements within the green economy . So tomorrow I, like the book, will take a look at them.

(Side note: as the green individual that I am, I requested the book from the library instead of buying a new one (I had to wait for it to be returned by someone else), I rode my bike to get it from the library, and I now read it while riding the bus to work everyday. Hopefully, Bill and Mike would be impressed by my efforts and I hope that we can all seek out ways to reduce our ecological footprints while we grow wealth)

According to AIN Online, in an effort to continue the life of airplane parts and materials after the planes have been retired, the Airbus company has made a commitment to ensuring that 85% of airplane parts are reused in some way.

Previously, a maximum of 65% was reused and the rest “destroyed” but  the French research project PAMELA (process for advanced management of end-of-life aircraft) has realized that 20% more can actually be recycled.

Airbus

“is now looking for ways to encourage the establishment of dismantling companies around the world…Of course, the more metal that can be extracted from the carcass for recycling, the more profitable will be the dismantling process, and advanced sorting of the metals at the source makes them more valuable than mixed metals.”

 

They explain in detail the process of first decommissioning the plane, removing the engine and turbines and such, followed by the final dismantling phase.

“Aware that some 1,200 Airbuses will be retired in the next 20 years, Airbus management has made planet-friendly aircraft dismantling part of the consortium’s general environmental policy.”

PAMELA also requests that the Airbus designers take into consideration this process in the first place to avoid later recycling efforts.

 

Just watched a Bill McDonough video on youtube that highlights some important aspects of Cradle to Cradle, which can be related here. As he said, “He is in the business of making things.” So are we.

The video gives a basic idea of what the book was about; one youtube commenter said “no bother buying and reading the book, he summed it all up here.” There’s no substitute for reading the actual book but I kind of agree that he sums up the ideaas behind Cradle to Cradle and gets you to buy into his concepts in the 20 minute video.

He states that

Our goal is a delightfully diverse, safem healthy and just world, with clean air, water, soil and power- economically, equitably, ecologically, and elegantly enjoyed.

Such a great image that seems very possible, but comes with manufacturers consiously choosing a lifecyle for prducts that is sustainable.

Another point that he makes that was my facvotire part until I watched the city creation at the end was his description of the elegance of a tree,

Imagine this design assignment: Design something that makes oxegyn, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates micro climates, changes colors with the seasons and self replicates.

Now, why don’t we knock that down and write on it.”

Perfect

He also points out that “Competition means strive together. Olympic athletes compete together in order to get fit together. Survival of the fittest can build a fit community.”

He created a city that you have to see to believe.

It’s worth it to watch from 17:44 on to watch the transformation of a field to a city. Completely sustainable and follows his ideas of cradle to cradle.

 

 

 

 

I finally watched The Story of Stuff, the 20 minute web movie about, well, The Story of Stuff. Maybe I’m the last person but I’m glad I finally took the time to watch it.

So informative and didn’t seem too lean to far to the green side of business. It really just laid out the reality that we only have one planet and we are using and wasting resources at an alarming rate. If not for our behavior just for the sheer number of people on the planet.

Obviously this affects manufacturing and it brings me back to the “Cradle to Cradle” concept, which is that we can’t have a linear production system. Part of green manufacturing is that the products that are produced must have a definite destination once they are done being used.

Since, as pointed out in The Story Of Stuff, we are a consumer society that thrives on using things for a while and then throwing them away, the manufacturing of the stuff must take this into consideration as well.

Once whatever you make heads to a consumer, where is its final resting place. In the Green Collar Economy, this question must be answered before it is even made. Will it be recycled? Will it be incinerated? Will it last for a long time? Was it made to last for a short time so that people buy more?

The true green manufacturers take this into consideration and ethics and corporate responibilty are critical points that sometimes conflict with the almighty dollar.

That’s why we’re working toward profitable sustainability