Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things Summary

The SQUEEZE: In Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, William McDonough and Michael Braungart argue that current views by environmentalists regarding the recycling process (i.e., reduce, reuse, and recycle) are narrow in the sense that the latter don’t take into account the impact of the current manufacturing model. McDonough and Braungart challenge the notion that waste is toxic. In fact, the authors believe that waste can provide nutrients, or food; this is the first principle of the book. The authors provide an example of how a tree produces blossoms to create another tree; in this case, the blossoms provide nourishment and support the creation of something new. The authors further argue that a new manufacturing model should include products that can re-enter the environment as different types of nutrients rather than just being downcycled as only mere recyclables, or low-grade uses.

Notable Endorsement: “Environmentalists too rarely apply the ecological wisdom of life to our problems. Asking how a cherry tree would design an energy efficient building is only one of the creative 'practices' that McDonough and Braungart spread, like a field of wild flowers, before their readers. This book will give you renewed hope that, indeed, 'it is darkest before the dawn'."—Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club

Common Q’s Answered by this Book:

  • What is the difference between “biological nutrients” and “technical nutrients”?
  • What are “closed-loop industrial cycles”?
  • What is the principle of “waste equals food”?
  • What are some ways to recycle?
  • What is the “cradle to grave” manufacturing model?


About the Author: An American architect, William Andrew McDonough founded William McDonough + Partners. He is also the co-founder of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) with Michael Braungart, who is a German chemist. McDonough’s career extends to designing sustainable buildings and transforming the industrial manufacturing processes. In 1996, McDonough received the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development; and in 2004, he received a National Design Award for environmental design. Today, McDonough serves as a senior adviser with Vantage Point Capital Partners. For more information, visit: Michael Braungart, a former Greenpeace activist, advocates for the redesign of current industrial production practices. Braungart is the founder of EPEA in Hamburg, Germany and a co-founder of MBDC. Braungart serves as a professor of process engineering at the University of Applied Sciences and the director of a master’s program at the school. Braungart completed a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Hannover (1985). For more information, visit:


Book Vitals:

Publisher: North Point Press (April 2002)

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