From the grave to the cradle

A blog post entitled Eco-Week: From the Cradle to the Grave hit my twitter inbox this morning, based upon the green things occuring at EcoBuild in London. The blog post from Rob Cameron is very good, making the point that we need to go back to source with our eco-zeal. (Something I am chasing:  product suppliers who can track their footprint back to raw material sources, manufacture and transport. Requests to EcoBuild, have at the moment drawn a blank)

But having read Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough & Michael Braungart some time  ago, I now cringe at seeing the expression cradle to grave used in any building ‘eco’ context.  Maybe it is because we have the cradle to grave mentality that we are in such a wasteful, enviro, sustaina-babble mess.

We make things, we use things, we still throw things away. Our current approaches to waste management and sustainability is just to slow down the process before the things we make end up in landfill – through reusing and recycling .

Needing to focus on the cradle not the grave

The premise of Cradle to Cradle (at least my interpretation) is to rethink the way we make things, so that after use things already have a new, hopefully higher value, purpose as the cradle to something new. It draws the parallel with nature where there is no waste, but as nature decomposes it becomes the food for the next iteration of ‘life’

We need to focus on designing,  engineering and managing out waste so that remnents of a construction process or project or of demolition becomes the food for the next evolution of buildings or facilities.

In fact there is a taxonomy issue at play here. We refer to all ‘that stuff’ left over after construction or demolition as waste. Lets really go for zero waste and get rid of the word waste in this context and go for 100% food, 100% rebuild

Further, related links:

Waste Is Stupid = Pecha Kucha presentation

Cradle to Cradle Explained (video)

3 thoughts on “From the grave to the cradle

  1. Roberta

    That is a great idea, though I suspect a very uphill battle. Im sure you and Rob Cameron from my blog post ( mentioned above) would have a lot to talk about. He is very passionate about these issue.
    Unfortunately everything comes down to money at the end of the day- its big business we have to convince in my opinion. They hold the cards to make real change, I think the smaller companies and individuals generally are more switched on to Eco issues than ever before. The more big companies get on board with the right philosophy,the more chance of govts really doing something rather than just paying lip service to it.

    Roberta Ward


  2. Rob Cameron

    Martin, a very thought provoking post. The points you raise are ones we need to consider more deeply. In the industry where I currently work, the concept of whole life analysis of materials and life cycle impact are (imho) relatively new and I base my knowledge and experience on that. You are an innovator/early adaptor in terms of your thinking and ideas, well ahead of the adoption curve, but we (the masses) need to catch up and quickly. Roberta, in her response, and I in a response yesterday have highlighted the ‘economic’ value attached to all things at this time; to overcome this and to take a more holistic view of value will need some significant cultural shifts; this may take some time. However, with the current & impending issues associated with global warming perhaps the time is fast approaching when the conditions will become right for those shifts to take place.


    Rob Cameron



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