Organic Connections features William McDonough

Excerpt:
William McDonough: Designing for Abundance

Architect and author William McDonough has been rec­og­nized by Time mag­a­zine as “Hero for the Planet,” and his best-selling 2002 book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things broke ground and became a sem­i­nal guide for the sus­tain­abil­ity move­ment. His career is filled with such firsts: While a stu­dent at Yale University, he designed and built the very first solar-heated home. The first green office in the US—for the Environmental Defense Fund—was designed in 1985 by McDonough. Along with Professor Dr. Michael Braungart, he co-authored the now-famous The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability, com­mis­sioned by the City of Hannover (Germany); these were the offi­cial design guide­lines for the 2000 World’s Fair, and were pre­sented by the city at the 1992 UN Earth Summit. He is the recip­i­ent of three US Presidential Awards: Award for Sustainable Development (1996), Green Chemistry Challenge Award (2003), and the National Design Award (2004).

Although his career path began and remains pri­mar­ily in archi­tec­ture, McDonough’s work goes far beyond design­ing buildings—into man­u­fac­tur­ing, lifestyles, and even into the very ground itself. His phi­los­o­phy of self-renewing and con­tribu­tive struc­tures and processes extends well past “zero impact.”

“Aiming for ‘lower’ or ‘zero’ is not inspi­ra­tional to me,” McDonough told Organic Connections. “It seems like a sub­tle shift from the strat­egy of tragedy that we’ve been pur­su­ing for way too long. I have always believed that a strat­egy of hope was pos­si­ble instead. This is why the sub­ti­tle of my lat­est book, The Upcycle, is Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance. Do you want a sus­tain­able life or one filled with joy and abundance?”

Cradle to Cradle

In Cradle to Cradle McDonough and co-author Michael Braungart exam­ine the his­tory of mod­ern pro­duc­tion, begin­ning with the Industrial Revolution. From the Industrial Revolution for­ward, the modus operandi has been “cradle-to-grave” build­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing and even agriculture.

The cradle-to-cradle model brings about dras­tic and vital change to these areas. Materials uti­lized in indus­trial processes fall into one of two cat­e­gories: “tech­ni­cal” or “bio­log­i­cal” nutri­ents. Technical nutri­ents are, by default, not harm­ful to humans or the envi­ron­ment in any way and can be used con­tin­u­ously with­out loss of integrity or qual­ity; they never become waste. Biological nutri­ents are those that, once used, biode­grade back into the soil. They actu­ally pro­vide life and have no neg­a­tive impact on the nat­ural environment.

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