Today, we live in a highly advanced world,
not only on a scientific but also on a technological level. As a result, we have reached an unprecedented high standard of living. Everything seems possible for us. However, we use our earth as a source for raw materials, as if natural resources were infinitely available. We extract them, make products from them… and dispose of them. This principle is called “Cradle to Grave”. Unfortunately, products no longer needed end up in places that were never meant for garbage disposal – with fatal consequences for humans,
animals and the environment. It is high time we realized that our planet
can only take a limited amount of waste. If we keep on dumping precious resources in form of products onto land fills, many of our important raw materials will soon be depleted. More and more people are becoming aware of this issue and are trying to counteract this development by: – reducing raw material consumption,
– producing less waste, – decreasing carbon dioxide emissions and
– by setting a long-term goal of zero emissions. But is this goal actually achievable at all? In fact, as living beings, we will always
produce emissions, because it is in our nature. So, is there absolutely no solution? Let us take a look at what nature does.
For example, a cherry tree: When it is blooming in full beauty, it is
not efficient regarding its nutrient consumption; And it is certainly not emission free. The
tree produces oxygen that is essential for human and animal life. Its withered leaves are no waste at all – on the contrary, they provide important nutrients for other living beings. Nature shows us:
There is no waste – there are only nutrients. Thus, waste is simply a valuable resource
in the wrong place. We should see nature as our role model, and try to keep our material flows in cycles. This principle is called “Cradle to Cradle”. Doing so, we have to distinguish between a biological and a technical cycle: The biological cycle includes everything that can wear out in the environment. These materials have to be fully biodegradable without releasing any harmful substances. In contrast, the technical cycle contains
everything that is not biodegradable and should be prevented from entering the environment. A clear distinction between these two cycles is important. So we have to be able to easily dismantle products into their components. Then, in turn, these components become raw materials for new products. These products are not only less harmful,
but, on the contrary, may contribute to human health and our environment in a positive way. With the Cradle to Cradle approach, we can not only reduce our negative ecological footprint but, extend our positive footprint. That means, already while designing a new product, we have to be aware of the fate of
all of its components at the end of the product’s life cycle. In the long term, we would then be able to
live in harmony with nature again, without lowering our standard of living. The Cradle to Cradle concept offers us the opportunity to do so. Let’s take it!