Michael Braungart talks about how Cradle to Cradle thinking can change the world

Here’s an excerpt from a new blog Q&A by Joanne Furio with Dr. Michael Braungart, the German chemist who co-created Cradle to Cradle with William McDonough.

“Eco-effective products and their processes should not only “do no harm,” but actually benefit the environment, people and the economy. That uncompromising design philosophy was outlined by Michael Braungart, the German chemist, and William McDonough, the American architect, in their seminal 2002 book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.

Inspired by those principles, the non-profit Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute was launched in San Francisco last year to help California crack down on harmful chemicals in consumer products, mandated by a groundbreaking 2008 “Green Chemistry” law, and promote safe manufacturing standards everywhere. So far, some 90 American companies and more than 300 products have gotten the “C2C” stamp of approval and 400 companies in the Netherlands.

To ramp things up stateside, Braungart recently joined McDonough on a whirlwind tour of Northern California—his first visit to the U.S. in six years, promoting a new “C2C” website and a more streamlined, transparent certification system.

Although he’s known here for collaborating with McDonough, Braungart’s been an eco-activist for the past 25 years, first as a “Ph.D. who could climb chimneys” for Greenpeace Chemistry, which he helped create, then as a founder of the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency, an environmental chemistry research group that now has offices around the world. In addition to holding a professorship in Rotterdam, Braungart’s focusing his efforts on EPEA and the design consultancy he runs with McDonough, McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, continuing to work with companies to profoundly change the way they make things.

Joanne Furio: You met with legislators recently in Sacramento, introducing C2C to a new administration and new law makers. How were you received?

Michael Braungart: I was overwhelmed by the positive response. They understand that Cradle to Cradle is about business and innovation. There was so much acceptance of Cradle to Cradle as an alternative to the way chemicals and materials are being used and accepted in California. If only 10% of the promises come true, we’ll have a Cradle-to-Cradle State of California in less than 5 years.”