There are many frameworks used in defining sustainability – one of the first being “Cradle to Grave”. Cradle to Grave is one of the initial models that addressed material conception and disposal. Though a linear framework, cradle to grave set the stage for a discussion on how to minimize “graves” (aka landfills). As the discussion evolved, the idea of developing closed loop systems became a central topic, and the word grave was dropped and replaced with cradle. Cradle to Grave is a system where material flows on a linear path from extraction to use to waste instead of the loop of cradle to cradle. The Cradle to Grave model takes, makes, and wastes.
As graves were analyzed, it was noticed that not all waste went directly to a “grave”. Some materials, like glass and aluminum, frequently return to cradles, creating a circular and closed loop system. By having a discussion on cradles and graves, the packaging industry started to find more ways to encourage circular versus linear systems.
Thus, the Cradle to Cradle model was developed. Cradle to Cradle maintains materials in closed loops which maximizes material value without damaging ecosystems. This is unlike cradle to grave where products are dumped in landfills at the end of their lifecycle. The flow of materials in cradle to cradle eliminates the concept of waste.
Cradle to Cradle design should be modeled on the effectiveness of natural ecosystems. There are three fundamental principles of cradle to cradle design: Use current solar income, waste equals food and celebrate diversity. Cradle to Cradle pictures a world powered by the sun, waste nutritious to the soil and diversity enhancing human and natural communities.
The ideal Cradle to Cradle packaging product and life cycle is designed for all of its materials to safely cycle and be reused or recovered at their highest possible value. To move a design toward Cradle to Cradle it is important to examine the following: material sources, material processing, package creation, package transport, package use and package end of life. Cradle to Cradle designs the waste out of the lifecycle of the package.
Cradle to Cradle design keeps the future in mind, instead of designing packaging that will end up in a landfill. It dares to envision a world without packaging waste, where all of our production methods are designed to not only prevent environmental damage, but actually improve the world.
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