The Cradle-to-Cradle framework provides the principles to design eco-effective solutions on the basis of safer materials that can be perpetually cycle back to the technical or biological ecosystems. The technical ecosystem uses inorganic or synthetic man-made nutrients that can be used multiple times without loss of quality. The biological ecosystem uses materials that can decompose into the natural environment without damage to it.
PRINCIPLE 1: WASTE = FOOD. Everything is a nutrient for something else.
Nature works in continuous cycles in which there is no such thing as waste. The balanced natural system of resources on the planet has changed. Resources are extracted from the earth’s crust and concentrated, changed and synthesized, leading ultimately to unlimited amounts of waste. This process means that valuable resources are lost (Cohen, 2007).
A reason why materials are not re-used is the fact that there are no suitable systems to recover them. This is because many products are ‘hybrids’, using combinations of both technological and biological materials that cannot be separated for re-use.
PRINCIPLE 2: USE THE SUN. Use fully renewable energy.
The first ‘modern’ solar cell, developed by Russell Ohl, was introduced to the market in 1941. This solar cell had an efficiency of only 4% in 1954 (ECN, undated). After the first oil crisis in the 1970s, there was a big acceleration in research into ways to significantly increase the efficiency of solar cells, and as a result to make commercial applications of solar cells possible (Weingart, 1974). More recently researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems announced that they had developed a solar cell with an efficiency of 41.1% (Guter et al., 2009).
PRINCIPLE 3: ENJOY DIVERSITY. Species, culturan and innovative.
Diversity makes an ecosystem more resilient, so that it is better able to respond well to change. The vitality of ecosystems depends on the relationships between species, and the way they use and exchange materials and energy at specific locations. Diversity means strength and monoculture weakness. The more diversity there is, the more productive functions there will be, both for the ecosystem and for the planet.