From the authors of “Cradle to Cradle,” we learn what’s next: The Upcycle.
“The Upcycle” is the eagerly awaited follow-up to “Cradle to Cradle,” one of the most consequential ecological manifestoes of our time. Now, drawing on the green living lessons gained from 10 years of putting the Cradle to Cradle concept into practice with businesses, governments, and ordinary people, William McDonough and Michael Braungart envision the next step in the solution to our ecological crisis: We don’t just use or reuse and recycle resources with greater effectiveness, we actually improve the natural world as we live, create, and build.
For McDonough and Braungart, the questions of resource scarcity and sustainability are questions of design. They are practical-minded visionaries: They envision beneficial designs of products, buildings, and business practices and they show us these ideas being put to use around the world as everyday objects like chairs, cars, and factories are being reimagined not just to sustain life on the planet but to “grow it.” It is an eye-opening, inspiring tour of our green future as it unfolds in front of us.
William McDonough often suggests “we don’t have an energy problem, we have a materials-in-the-wrong-place problem.” Carbon for instance, should be used where it is of value, not in the atmosphere where it acts as a toxin. Upcycling is about using materials and energy to give us the most benefit without compromising future needs, appreciating that abundance in the natural world is the starting point.
In fact, causation and abundance are the core principles consistently referenced in the book. Think of soil as a battery for caloric energy which needs recharging and then the way we grow our food fundamentally changes. “A battery is just something that converts chemical energy into electricity. Here electrical energy is converted into chemical energy. Earth as a battery, plants as a capacitor. Instead of metal batteries that are expensive and toxic, how about food as a battery, storing energy for our beneficial present and future use?”
“The Upcycle” is as ambitious as such classics as Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” but its mission is very different. McDonough and Braungart want to turn on its head our very understanding of the human role on earth: Instead of protecting the planet from human impact, why not redesign our activity to improve the environment? We can have a beneficial, sustainable footprint. Abundance for all. The goal is within our reach.”