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Bill Nye the Science Guy Interviews Bill McDonough the Cradle to Cradle Designer

Posted: 08.05.2020 no comments


Bill McDonough, the architect and designer, has formulated a design principle which he lays out in his book Cradle to Cradle. He demonstrates that our current production systems are based on a ‘cradle to grave’ design model that dates to the Industrial Revolution. This process casts off as much as 90 percent of the materials it uses as waste, much of it toxic. McDonough challenges the notion that human industry must inevitably damage the natural world.




Could we model our own product design on Nature’s? A tree produces thousands of blossoms in order to bear fruit, yet that abundance isn’t wasteful. It’s safe, beautiful and highly effective. The blossoms fall away to biodegrade and enrich the soil. If not picked, the fruit is eaten by birds and seeds are distributed to produce more trees. Products might be designed so that, after their useful life, they provide nourishment for something new – either as biological nutrients that safely re-enter the environment, or as industrial nutrients that circulate within closed-loop production cycles, feeding the manufacture of other goods.


Nature has her own waste disposal solutions. In nature nothing is wasted. All things that were once alive eventually become part of the earth again, returning usable resources. So why not study how nature produces abundantly without waste?


There’s an established science that analyzes nature’s ideas and adapts them for human use. It’s called biomimicry. So far, most biomimicry breakthroughs have been designed and deployed to build better products – lighter, stronger, faster, etc. What if biomimicry scientists (biomimicists?) tackled Bill McDonough’s closed loop, zero waste, cradle to cradle design challenges?


Editor’s Note: I highly recommend this podcast interview. McDonough is at the top of the sustainable design field and, it turns out, is an insightful and engaging interviewee. https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/stitcher/science-rules-with-bill-nye/e/76550199?autoplay=true