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TEDxNY: William McDonough on Cradle to Cradle Design
Categories: Innovation

At TEDxNY, we discussed William McDonough’s talk on cradle to cradle design. Hope you can join us next week – see The new Grey offices are amazing – open workspaces designed for collaboration – looks like an industrial-designed coffee bar.

They reviewed this old talk in light of the COP15 (2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen happening now – see It’s still relevant and exciting, but someone pointed out that some of the idealistic message in the talk could have been from the ’60s. And unfortunately, the city he describes for China has been stymied. Excerpts below.

I want to know what green innovation have you seen?

“Imagine this design assignment: Design something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates microclimates, changes colors with the seasons and self-replicates. Well, why don’t we knock that down and write on it? …

Now if we look at the word competition…most people don’t realize it comes from the Latin competare, which means strive together. It means the way Olympic athletes train with each other. They get fit together, and then they compete. The Williams sisters compete — one wins Wimbledon. So we’ve been looking at the idea of competition as a way of cooperating in order to get fit together…. We’re also looking at survival of the fittest, not in just competition terms in our modern context of destroy the other or beat them to the ground, but really to fit together and build niches and have growth that is good. …

Our first product was a textile where we analyzed 8,000 chemicals in the textile industry. Using those intellectual filters, we eliminated 7,962. We were left with 38 chemicals. We have since databased the 4000 most commonly used chemicals in human manufacturing, and we’re releasing this database into the public in six weeks. So designers all over the world can analyze their products down to the parts per million for human and ecological health.

We’ve developed a protocol so that companies can send these same messages all the way through their supply chains, because when we asked most companies we work with — about a trillion dollars — and say, “Where does your stuff come from?”, they say, “Suppliers.” “And where does it go?” “Customers.” So we need some help there.”

Posted by Kathy Sandler on Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 6:23 PM

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