Baltimore Chronicle reviews The Upcycle

Can This Environmentally Challenged World Be Saved? The Upcycle Says It Can

Review by Alice Cherbonnier


Back in 2002, U.S. architect William McDonough and German scientist Michael Braungart published Cradle to Cradle, a book that laid out a compelling case for creating a sustainable world by reinventing how products are made and disposed of. Incremental change, they said persuasively, isn’t going to cut it if we are to solve the many environmental problems the world is facing.

Now, 11 years later, the duo has published a follow-up book, The Upcycle, which details important successes of Cradle to Cradle implementation and steps up the game even more: now the authors are exhorting us not only to rethink design and manufacturing processes from beginning to end, in order to eliminate waste and have a “net zero” impact; they’re saying that just getting to “net zero” or “neutral” isn’t enough. They show how it’s possible to plan cradle-to-cradle processes that end up with environmental benefits at the end of the cycle. The goal isn’t to be “less bad” and eliminate adverse consequences, it’s to be “more good.”

The authors are well-connected heavy hitters in environmental thinking. McDonough consulted on the celebrated “Make It Right” program, which incorporated cradle-to-cradle principles to the new homes the program, with Brad Pitt’s involvement, has been building in post-Katrina New Orleans’ hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward. Braungart wrote “The Hannover Principles,” international “green design” guidelines promulgated for the 2000 World’s Fair in that German city. And this book’s foreward is by none other than President Bill Clinton.

McDonough and Braungart have been able to convince their client corporations and institutions, ranging from NASA to Walmart, that implementing cradle-to-cradle principles is not only responsible citizenship, it’s profitable. They also claim that the upcycle approach will reduce government regulations because, with ill effects eliminated, there will be less to regulate.

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