Going from cradle to cradle: how to make circularity a reality
The building industry has a huge impact on climate change. Fortunately, the industry is becoming more aware of this, as it is shifting towards more sustainable practices. By embracing the concept of circularity, the industry aims at reducing waste, conserving resources, and minimizing carbon emissions. With the Cradle to Cradle framework and certification, manufacturers finally have a practical and actionable framework to put this into practice.
According to the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, the building industry contributes to no less than 39% of carbon emissions every year. Over the next 40 years the world is expected to build 250 billion square meters - the equivalent of building another Paris - every week. The building industry is also responsible for 40% of waste by volume sent to landfills every year.
Looking at these numbers, it’s not difficult to see that when this industry is taking action towards more sustainability, it immediately has an impact on the world’s overall sustainability.
And yet, for the building industry particularly, there are many challenges. For one, how do you even begin to collectively manage and measure sustainable progress in an industry where supply chains are so complex and diverse? For example, how can you trace materials and ensure they are properly recycled or repurposed? And how do you separate the greenwashers from well-meaning industry suppliers and manufacturers?
The answers to these questions are complex. But with the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product® Standard, at least there is a shared, multi-attribute standard that designers, brands and manufacturers can agree on and follow.
What is Cradle to Cradle?
Originally, Cradle to Cradle is a design philosophy that focuses on products that are made to last, by developing them for reuse, repair, remanufacturing, disassembly or recycling.
The concept was developed in the 1990s by Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart, William McDonough and the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA). The philosophy is inspired by nature and entails that all constituents of a product need to be chemically harmless and recyclable. According to the concept, waste as we know it today and which is generated according to the pre-existing take-make-waste model should no longer exists. There are only useful nutrients.
Today, Cradle to Cradle is also a certification standard for this design approach. It was developed by the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute and is audited by third-party experts. The standard is a science-based, globally recognized product standard for designing products for the circular economy.
Many hundreds of companies, architects and designers in the building industry have already taken action towards creating products, buildings, and infrastructures that are healthy, circular, and equitable, according to this Cradle to Cradle Certified® Product standard.
Cradle to cradle requirements
So, how can you comply with the Cradle to Cradle Certified® Product Standard? The standard assesses the safety, circularity and responsibility of materials and products across five categories of sustainability performance:
- Material health: Chemicals and materials used in the product are selected to prioritize the protection of human health and the environment, generating a positive impact on the quality of materials available for future use and cycling.
- Product circularity: Products are intentionally designed for their next use and are actively cycled in their intended cycling pathways.
- Clean air & climate protection: Product manufacturing results in a positive impact on air quality, the renewable energy supply, and the balance of climate changing greenhouse gasses.
- Water & soil stewardship: Water and soil are treated as precious and shared resources. Watersheds and soil ecosystems are protected, and clean water and healthy soils are available to people and all other organisms.
- Social fairness: Companies are committed to upholding human rights and applying fair and equitable business practices.
Cradle to Cradle for carpet manufacturers
The beauty of the Cradle to Cradle Certified® Product framework is that it provides a practical and actionable pathway for every manufacturing company that wants to subscribe to the circular economy.
To adhere to the Cradle to Cradle Certified® Product Standard, companies need to comply with each of the above-mentioned categories. However, while most categories are in their own hands, the ‘material health’ category is one where manufactures mainly need to look to their value chain partners.
For example, as a carpet manufacturer, you can only become certified when your carpet source materials (e.g. yarns) are certified in the material health category as well.
Fortunately, carpet manufacturers today have many options for sustainable yarns. Choosing a yarn solution that is Cradle to Cradle Certified is an essential part of obtaining the Cradle to Cradle certification for your own finished product.
Are you ready to innovate for a more circular economy? Maybe we can help.