“Recycling is an aspirin alleviating a rather large collective hangover… overconsumption.
The best way to reduce any environmental impact is not to recycle more,
but to produce and dispose of less”.
So we’ve all heard of the 3 Rs “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. Some of us have even heard of the 5 Rs “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot” (Bea Johnson). We can also compare linear or circular production processes also called cradle-to-grave and cradle-to-cradle. Whichever one you’ve heard of and choose to apply it is mainly your own actions and decisions as an individual consumer that they influence. Although I believe more than anything that one person is ENOUGH to make a global change, there is also always the thought that it would be so much easier if it was happening from the beginning of the cycle, rather than being dependant on the end consumer.
For example, when I first shared the idea of Zero Waste with my mum, as a designer herself, her first words were: “This should not be happening on a personal level, this should be an all-industry action”. And I have always completely agreed with her. Change should 100% come the industry itself but it is not very likely that I can take part of that change as an individual. I do not work or have experience and knowledge and product design, product production or anything else in those industries. All I have is my voting power as a consumer.
I read “Cradle to Cradle” about 9 months ago and back then I didn’t find it useful or valuable exactly because of that. Unlike everything that I have been reading it is written by professionals for professionals; for the industry leaders; for those who produce. And yet here I am, writing a review of the book. I guess it left quite the impression in me.
“Cradle to Cradle” is a sustainability and eco-friendly product book. Instead of paper, it is printed on this weird plastic thing that is supposed to last a lifetime or be forever recyclable. It is written by an architect and a chemist and is very far from Bea Johnson’s book.
The main point of the book is to explain how products should be made good instead of less bad. So, for example, how can a packaging be beneficial to the environment, rather than just less harmful. So it is not about how to make it without toxic chemicals but how to make it with minerals and elements which can help put nutrients into the area of decomposing.
It still amazes me, don’t know how many times I’ve told this to people, the story with the carpet factory. Here we go again: William and Michael went into a carpet factory to help improve their production and this was measured by the quality of discard water. As you can imagine in the beginning that water was full of dangerous chemicals that are a hazard when leaving the factory. They completely changed the material and products process to the extent that the water coming out of the factory after the production was now cleaner than the one coming into the factory. The people measuring the toxic levels had to go away to check whether their equipment was working properly as the output levels were not normal for any production site. That not only makes the impacts of the factory on the environment positive but it also allows them to put the water back into production thus saving valuable resources, time, effort and money – Cradle to Cradle. This is a perfect example to describe the word “sustainability”.
I would admit that the book still doesn’t give me any inspiration for my personal actions. But it gives me something more important – knowledge that sustainability is possible. Our society is so stuck in its ways that we often don’t really believe in what we do because we have so much old knowledge clouding our judgment. This book changes that, it proofs that sustainability efforts are achievable when you’re in the right mindset and have the right knowledge at your disposal.
Yes, I still can’t go into a company and change their ways, but reading this book I know that my demand for better production can easily result in the implementation of beneficial strategies. So no, my efforts are not worthless even if I am still part of a minority.