Get Green with Style Blog

Green Book Review – Cradle to Cradle

by Hilary Sopata, LEED AP

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
Written by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

Cradle to Cradle is a thought-provoking informative book that scares you a little at times but really promotes ideas and real-life examples of drastic change to the way things are made.  McDonough (an architect) and Braungart (a chemist) tell us the real story behind things we use every day as well as their ideas on how to overhaul the process and improve the way things are made.  One idea is to keep biological and technical materials separated.  For instance: Don’t add chemicals like chromium to leather because if you do then it is no longer biodegradable and because the chromium wears off and can be harmful to our health.

A great quote from the book is, “That plastic rattle the baby is playing with – should she be putting it in her mouth?”  The authors go on to tell you about the toxic dyes, lubricants, and other chemicals probably found in that “toy” and why the baby should not put it in her mouth!  Shoes, textiles, building materials, etc. are discussed in this book designed in my opinion to lay it all on the line becoming like the dawn enlightening us to a new way of thinking.  Once you know about it, you have to take action.

I have had the privilege of touring the Herman Miller factory that McDonough led a team to design.  It is a relaxing space with natural sunlight and inspiring views.  It is a fine example of good design when you can retain employees based on the design of your factory!  Which, of course, is exactly what they did!

McDonough and Braungart are intelligent, experienced people who have given me a lot to consider when choosing products for my clients and for my family.  This book is perfect for a scientific-minded person who is curious about the materials used to make things and wants ideas about something more than “less bad.”   There are numerous facts, figures, and quotable quotes in Cradle to Cradle that have already and will continue to inspire change.  I recommend reading it and taking action!

McDonough, William and Braungart, Michael. (2002). Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (1st ed.). North Point Press. ISBN 0-86547-587-3


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