Cradle2Cradle Begins To Spill Over Into Design

Now that fully biodegradable packaging is beginning to feature in our everyday lives more and more, designers of household items are studying ways to find biodegradable furniture materials. Because why stop at plastic bags?

It’s what the cradle to cradle philosophy is all about. This philosophy, C2C for short, was invented a few years back by architect William McDonough and Michael Braungart, a chemist. The two wrote a book calling for a new Industrial Revolution which will see industries spearhead big innovations around eco principles. They turned the durable design world on its head.

The book Cradle 2 Cradle itself was printed on treeless paper, a synthetic material made from plastic resins and inorganic fillers which can be easily recycled in localities with systems to collect polypropylene, like that in yogurt containers.

It´s odd still to think of a manufactured product´s propensity to rot away as a unique selling point, but C2C definitely makes sense. You simply have to apply the reverse logic of disposable design and not think ´durability´, but ´total disposal´. For instance, a plastic cup takes about six months to produce. Then a person will use it for about 15 minutes and after that it will remain in a landfill for a couple of hundred years.  That´s a bizarre logic which durable design tends to correct by creating products which are mostly not bio degradable, but which extend the time they´re used.


Eight Dutch student designers grouped together to set up their own design company after hearing the convincing C2C argument. They’ve just completed a frantic search for a 100% biodegradable material from which to manufacture furniture. They found a bio plastics manufacturer called Biopearls. It’s a Dutch  producer of biodegradable polymers from corn. The material is incredibly new and its complete range of qualities are hardly known. The Dutch designer team, called Artishok, are as close as any designer has ever been to replicating mother nature’s cycles directly by using the corn based plastics. Design that can be ´fed back´ to mother nature no questions asked is expected to be in strong demand but the market for it is still pretty much being created. In the case of corn, only a few products exist, including HP’s corn printer. There are also sugar based products including lamps and jewelry.

Critics are leering that it´s the trash heap nightmare, not nature, which made the inventors of the C2C philosophy simply argue the problem out of this world, making a great case for biodegradable products as greenest of all products. Other opponents say that the cycle of nature doesn’t need extra compost and that the argument compares to saying that a snowball’s ultimate resting place should be the compost heap. 

But others are more positive. The municipal authorities of Seattle and Boulder, Colo., adopted a zero waste policy. And McDonough and Braungart render leeway. They say that so long as you create stuff that can be re-used by industry, you might consider it on equal terms with biodegradable materials. They really have a point. Because every item that´s not ending up in a landslide equals less pollution, even if the earth doesn´t need it.

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