Exploring the feasibility of Cradle to Cradle (product) design: perspective from New Zealand Scientists

  •  Stephen Reay    
  •  Judith McCool    
  •  Andrew Withell    


This research project explores the feasibility of a Cradle to Cradle approach to sustainable product design in New Zealand.  Relatively recently a framework for sustainable design was proposed by environmental chemist Michael Braungart and architect William McDonough who suggest that the current paradigm of “cradle to grave” product development is unable to provide a solution to the world’s current ecological crisis, and a “cradle to cradle” framework is more appropriate. They suggest that their approach, based on examples from nature, ensures that all human activities have a positive ecological footprint, capable of replenishing and regenerating natural systems, as well as guaranteeing that we are able to develop a world that is culturally and ecologically diverse.  A sample of New Zealand scientists were asked to explore the underlining science and feasibility of the Cradle to Cradle design framework in an attempt to determine the potential of this approach to the design of sustainable products.   Analysis of interview data indicated that sustainability is a complex and multi-faceted concept, especially with regard to practical application of ecological considerations, and product design.  There is considerable environmental and economic potential in the successful application of cross-discipline collaboration between science and design in addressing the need for products that contribute to sustainable solutions. 

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