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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 27 April 2017
One of the most relevant, clear-thinking, and highly-readable discussions of how we can do what we need to do for the environment
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on 19 February 2014
I am grateful to this book for one and only one idea: if you want to be absolutely sustainable, you have to recycle everything (a minor objection could be that you could pass with a little bit of unprocessed residue, given that the environment degraded it at a sufficient rate).
The rest is absolutely ridiculous. Pure utopist nonsense. Not worth the pain.
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on 12 November 2013
For an item designated as "good" it should not have appeared with the cover strapped, showing water-accident, mold on it and inside pages with stains and water marks…
Cheap but disappointing quality of what i received
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on 16 March 2008
Cradle to Cradle is a manifesto for the new consumer - a mall-nirvana of non toxic products, endlessly `up-cycled' and replaceable; sustainability without the need to change our consuming habits.

Shrugging off alternative strategies as too dour and depressing, the authors put their faith in the belief that we can design our way out of the current predicament of toxic and crude products and create a virtuous circle of product creation, use and "up-cycling" to preserve precious resources and reduce our impact on the planet.

This is an appealing vision and one has to admire the work of co-authors Bill and Michael over many years in developing and testing their theory. But I was left more than a little disappointed as I realised not just the practical limits of their approach but also the philosophy that seemed to underlie their proposition.

This is a manifesto for accelerated consumerism, an evolutionary attempt to overcome the problems we have created through ignorance and myopia. At no point do the authors seem to question the wisdom of consumerism in a shrinking world or its instant appeal and ramifications for a global population of almost 7billion today and maybe 9 billion by 2050.

Maybe I was expecting too much, but even if every product complied with the cradle-to-cradle philosophy we would still be an awfully long way from a sustainable, let alone just world. I can't help but feel that even if the Cradle-to-Cradle philosophy was able to generate the abundance of endlessly re-cycled products it proposes, we will still require a more fundamental appraisal of why we want so much `stuff' we do not need in the first place, regardless of how it is designed and produced.

I am reminded of the Irish farmer's response to the request for directions from a lost tourist, "Well, if I was you, I wouldn't be starting out from here." Making existing product's more eco-friendly and efficient sounds a very worthy goal but maybe the first question we should be asking is, "Do we really need them in the first place?"
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on 16 April 2013
William McDonough and Michael Braungart argue that society's environmental problems will not be solved by eco-friendliness or by recycling. Instead, they argue that the main flaw in modern industrial society is that products are designed with a 'cradle to grave' mentality. This mindset - a legacy of the early days of the industrial revolution - favours high user turnover with little regard for how the product may be re-used (not recycled, which they claim is mostly 'downcycling' anyway). They advocate a 'cradle to cradle' design mentality. Products (i.e. cars, houses, work spaces etc.), in their view, can be designed such that at the end of product life, the product can be re-used without degradation in the value of the constituent chemicals. The authors give numerous examples of their work with organisations such as the Ford Motor Company, The Environmental Defense Fund and the Chicago City Council.

According to McDonough and Braungart, this 'cradle to cradle' design philosophy is best exemplified by nature. Blossom trees, for example, are not only beautiful, but also provide shelter for birds, insects and other species - and all this, without a co-ordinating bureaucracy. Another favourite example mentioned in the book: ants have a biomass much larger than that of humans, yet ants have learned to evolve and thrive without harming the environment. The design challenge, according to the authors, is to recognise that we (humans) are not in an adversarial relationship with nature; we should learn from nature.

The underlying assumptions in the book are the following: (1) nature is benign and wonderful; (2) nature does not waste resources as we dreadful humans do; and (3) human beings are comparable to 'natural' creatures like ants. The first assumption is almost always true. Almost. Anyone familiar with earthquakes, tsunamis, torrential floods and volcanoes will disagree. But I will not belabour the point. The second and third assumptions deserve close scrutiny as they are products of the authors' romantic imaginations. Who says that nature is not wasteful? If not, how does one view the fact that 99% of the species that ever existed on our planet are extinct? Gone. Wiped off the face of the earth. Moreover, are human beings really comparable to ants? Do ants have egos? Have they developed industrial societies? Lovable as they are (and I love ants) do they have the same cognitive abilities as we do? Can they imagine a better world than the anthill?

The book is written for developed-country audiences who rightly worry about environmental degradation and the limits of economic growth. Yet, the book ignores the majority of the world's population who have not benefited from industrialisation. These people want food, infrastructure, schools, fridges, cars and other amenities of modern life. What advice on 'cradle to cradle' solutions for these countries? Go local since 'all sustainability is local' (pg 123-124). Although I applaud the authors' call to re-examine the assumptions of modern product design across the developed world, I am not convinced that imitating nature will lead us - developed and developing world - to ecological Valhalla. The arguments presented in this book are romantic, engaging, but weak.
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VINE VOICEon 19 March 2004
This extreme book is an example of it's own preachings. The book doesnt contain a single ounce of paper. In fact it's made out of a fully recyclable plastic material, and the non-toxic ink can be removed with special non-toxic chemicals. Basically it's the future of a fully recyclable book design. Amazing!
Although quite an intense read, it is quite interesting and at times captivating. Based on an architect and a scientist that teamed up and work on projects to basically help companies become more environmentally friendly.
Examples include the book design, Ford Motor company, and other examples of products that can slowly pollute the environment and possible solutions to these products. Alot of the solutions can be recycled over and over, as the cradle to cradle title suggests.
The book also describes the difference between the Technosphere and Biosphere, and how products from these two different environments interact with each other and the world around us.
Reccomended read, and the book is fully waterproof - Genius!
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on 13 May 2004
I found out about William McDonough by accident in a magazine article and bought this book on spec out of curiosity. I'm very glad I did. Finally a book with genuine hard and fast ideas of a method to get the sterile, polluted, modern world out of the mess it is in. If we can spread the messages this book imparts, there is a possibility that we can escape the ensuing environmental disaster that even the Pentagon is now predicting. With chemicals affecting every biological organism on Earth in unknowable ways and nature's mechanisms seriously disrupted, someone had to advocate a way forward which can harness the progress of science with the existence of the planet in perpetuity. This is that vision. If you are a business person who thinks that environmentalists are inherently cave dwelling, backward looking bleeding hearts or an environmental activist who thinks that industry and commerce are run by Hitleresque destroyers with no souls, buy this book and get with the program. WE ARE ALL ON THE SAME SIDE. Not only that but we have a lot of work to do and dreams to fulfill. I intend to buy a few copies of this book and send it to people who might be able to make a difference and I implore anyone else who understand its value to do the same.
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on 28 August 2010
Word of warning to anyone who already has the last edition - this is not a significant new revision - there are disappointingly few new revelations here.

Having said that, if you haven't read the first edition, then everything in here is still brilliant, and more relevant today than ever.

Like most books in this domain, Cradle to Cradle starts a little alarmist, with a catalogue of woes about many of the bad things in the world today. Don't be put off though because this is definitely a book about solutions, not problems.

McDonough and Braungart propose a sustainable economic and manufacturing model that is sound and easy to understand. A capitalist model that is far more resource efficient and better for the environment, but which still allows for differentiation and innovation of producers.

A model that rewards innovative and waste-conscious suppliers, but which leaves consumers who want to stay ahead of the Joneses plenty of scope to do so.

Most importantly, by helping us consider the real design source of the problems that humanity faces, Cradle to Cradle really proposes a fundamental shift from a perception of humanity as a parasite. It helps us to imagine a world where we live far better than we do today, but within our natural systems.

If you believe (as I do) that humanity is able to transcend our parasitism without devolving to mud huts, then this book is a brilliant place to start.
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The concept put forward by these authors is admirable and clearly the way for industrialisation to move. However, if you were hoping for a book packed with practical ideas of how things could change, rather than just concepts, you will be disappointed.

The first half (yes half) of the book could be condensed to just a few pages. It sets out how bad the current way of doing things is, but is extremely depressing (to the point where you start wondering how any of us are still alive!) and in fact just says the same thing in numerous different ways. I think in the entire first half of the book, there were only actually two positive suggestions of what might be done differently, and these were very brief. One was the turf on the roof concept, so nothing new there.
I would suggest just skipping the first half of the book. In summary, what we do now is less than good.

The second half of the book starts to actually outline what the authors suggest as an alternative and the book does improve. Nonetheless, the vast majority of the offerings are highly conceptual in nature rather than actual practical ideas or things that could be implemented. If we could move to cars that functioned like purifying trees, then great, but anyone can suggest that. Actually suggesting some technology that could do this, now that would be something else.
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This is an extraordinary and unlikely book. It is not printed on paper, but on a waterproof polymer with the heft of good paper and more strength, a substance that reflects the right amount of light, yet holds the ink fast. It seems like an impossible fantasy, but so does much of what the authors propose about design and ecology. They speak with the calm certainty of the ecstatic visionary. Could buildings generate oxygen like trees? Could running shoes release nutrients into the earth? It seems like science fiction. Yet, here is this book, on this paper. The authors make a strong case for change, and just when you're about to say, "if only," they cite a corporation that is implementing their ideas. However, it's hard to believe their concepts would work on a large scale, in the face of powerful economic disincentives. We believe authors do aim some of their criticism at obsolete marketing and manufacturing philosophies, but the overall critique is well worth reading.
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