Cradle to Cradle Design

Cradle to Cradle design, or regenerative design, is ‘a biomimetic approach to the design of products and systems’. Basically, human industry mimicking the natural lifecycle that seeks to create systems that are efficient and produce almost zero waste. Everything taken out of the environment must be given back in some way, as the natural world works, otherwise the environment will be depleted.

This sounds like a very sensible and obvious solution, but it is commonly known that the last couple of centuries of human development has involved far more taking than giving back. The term was coined by Michael Braungart and William McDonough and serves the ideas of circular economies and biomimicry.

The term can apply to many industries, product design, architecture, food production… I think great design should strive to meet at least some of the standards of Cradle to Cradle accreditation, as it can ensure that a product or system is renewable, by using approved materials and processes. I also feel that the concept in itself is great design, while it is not a tangible thing, and their book from 2002 was incredibly interesting and made people take a hard look at the processes and materials they were using, and the idea is still alive and well today.


Together with 3XN/GXN, William McDonough + Partners are involved in drawing up plans for the Agro Food Park in Skejby, Denmark. Agro Food Park could be a radical new platform for food and agriculture innovation.

It will be a mostly urban environment for innovation, sharing resources and information and interaction between companies in the Agro Food Park, a centre for food and agricultural innovation.

People, Knowledge and Ideas

The design of the location is only the beginning, the physical environment should be populated by people and ideas that provides the physical framework meaning and content.


The Strip : A street and campus course with open facades and shared amenities. It is here the companies and knowledge institutions of Agro Food Park display their identity and products. The main street is built in a density that create life and activity, kept in a human scale.


 The Lawn : The central open green area in the masterplan. It functions as the showroom for  experimentation and innovation within agriculture and food production.


The Plazas : A number of plazas that have urban density and experiential qualities and gives local character to the surrounding buildings.

The areas the platform will focus on will be healthy materials, clean energy, increased biodiversity, healthy air and clean water.

The hope is that the Agro Food Park can become an inspiration and template for how future industrial parks will look and work. The aspect of this project that is truly great, is the lasting impact it could have by giving companies involved in food and agriculture a space in which to innovate and look towards a more sustainable future in these industries.

Outside of McDonough and Braungart’s own work, many companies develop their products in line with the Cradle to Cradle philosophy.  One of these companies is Method, a well known and liked household brand, perhaps on the slightly higher end.
Clearly from this, there are many aspects to achieving accreditation, by following the required guidelines. I find it encouraging to see many non-obscure brands involved on the C2C website, as more companies looking into the programme would improve environmental impact of manufacturing and production industries significantly.
To summarise, I feel that C2C design itself is great design and products that look towards it are made greater through their consideration and sustainability. The effect C2C has had on the industry has been not insignificant and clearly, while there’s still far to go, many companies are aware that there is a demand for designs to adhere to these kinds of standards regarding their environmental impact.

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