When Cradle to Cradle was introduced in 2002 it helped spur a revolution in manufacturing design, in which—in certain industries—it became unacceptable to load homes and offices with toxins, and in turn encouraged the use of safer products that are eventually broken down to become the source materials for new products. Braungart and McDonough envisioned that the reuse of the materials would actually improve their quality chemically as less toxic products are “upcycled,” rather than degraded and difficult to reclaim—known as “downcycled” items.
The Upcycle takes that basic premise and expands it into almost every aspect of the built and designed environment. They start with the concept that “upcycling eliminates the concept of waste” by exploring the way materials are classified as technical nutrients for recycling, or as biological nutrients which can then be safely returned to the earth.
The narrative swings from philosophical heights to practical applications, many which are highlighted in Braungart and McDonough’s years of accomplishments in the development of materials, products, and buildings. The principle focuses on how to gain a deep understanding of causation and incorporate that knowledge into practical everyday design.
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