The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability--Designing for Abundance

The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability--Designing for Abundance

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by William McDonough

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From the authors of Cradle to Cradle, we learn what's next: The Upcycle
The Upcycle is the eagerly awaited follow-up to Cradle to Cradle, one of the most consequential ecological manifestoes of our time. Now, drawing on the green living lessons gained from 10 years of putting the Cradle to Cradle concept into


From the authors of Cradle to Cradle, we learn what's next: The Upcycle
The Upcycle is the eagerly awaited follow-up to Cradle to Cradle, one of the most consequential ecological manifestoes of our time. Now, drawing on the green living lessons gained from 10 years of putting the Cradle to Cradle concept into practice with businesses, governments, and ordinary people, William McDonough and Michael Braungart envision the next step in the solution to our ecological crisis: We don't just use or reuse and recycle resources with greater effectiveness, we actually improve the natural world as we live, create, and build.
For McDonough and Braungart, the questions of resource scarcity and sustainability are questions of design. They are practical-minded visionaries: They envision beneficial designs of products, buildings, and business practices—and they show us these ideas being put to use around the world as everyday objects like chairs, cars, and factories are being reimagined not just to sustain life on the planet but to grow it. It is an eye-opening, inspiring tour of our green future as it unfolds in front of us.
The Upcycle is as ambitious as such classics as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring—but its mission is very different. McDonough and Braungart want to turn on its head our very understanding of the human role on earth: Instead of protecting the planet from human impact, why not redesign our activity to improve the environment? We can have a beneficial, sustainable footprint. Abundance for all. The goal is within our reach.

Editorial Reviews

executive director of the Sierra Club on Cradle to Carl Pope

Asking how a cherry tree would design an energy-efficient building is only one of the creative 'practices' that McDonough and Braungart spread before their readers. This book will give you renewed hope that, indeed, 'it is darkest before the dawn.'
From the Publisher
"Stimulating and inventive." —Kirkus
Kirkus Reviews
Architect McDonough and chemist Braungart (co-authors: Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, 2002) tender both an attitude and a strategy for a better-designed world. The authors caused a splash a decade ago with their notion of cradle to cradle: that our goods and services can be designed with the intentionality of reuse. Here, they expand on that notion, firing off examples of achieving the upcycle--"a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy, and just world with clean air, water, soil, and power, economically, equitably, ecologically, and elegantly enjoyed"--through the proper use of design. The book is a heady engagement, a powerful to-and-fro between the authors and readers. Who would quibble that design ought to take reuse into account, that regulations are a red flag indicating the need for redesign, or that using positive ingredients to begin with is better than having to eliminate dangerous byproducts? Most interesting are the hands-on, root-to-rebirth projects they, or others, have accomplished: Their design of an experimental, high-sustaining building for NASA is a vision brought to life; infusing objects with color via reflected-light polymers rather than poisonous dyestuffs; providing plants with the specific light energy they need with solar-powered LEDs. But the authors examine wind turbines as a "pleasant visual" in one instance and a potential "blight" in another, and some readers may wonder who decides "those things we like, that are useful, pleasurable, and healthy." The authors end with a "What's Next?" section, a list of 10 points to remember, including "We Don't Have an Energy Problem. We Have a Materials-in-the-Wrong-Place Problem," "Always Be Asking What's Next" and "Add Good on Top of Subtracting Bad." Mostly stimulating and inventive.

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Meet the Author

William McDonough is an American architect and founding principal of William McDonough + Partners. Michael Braungart is a German chemist. Together they cofounded McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, and in 2002 they coauthored Cradle to Cradle.

Architect William McDonough is an architect and the founding principal of William McDonough + Partners, an architecture and community design firm based in Charlottesville, Virginia; MBDC, a firm that assists companies in designing profitable and environmentally intelligent solutions; McDonough Innovation, where he is able to advise business and provide targeted ideas and strategic business solutions. A highly regarded speaker and writer, William McDonough’s co-authored Cradle to Cradle: Remaking The Way We Make Things has played an influential role in the sustainability movement. McDonough partnered with Stanford University Libraries in 2012, on a “living archive” of his work and communications. At the 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland, McDonough participated as a leader, presenter and convener, and made sustainability a primary focus, for the first time at the WEF. In 1999 Time magazine recognized him as a "Hero for the Planet," stating "his utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that—in demonstrable and practical ways—is changing the design of the world." In 1996, he received the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development, the highest environmental honor given by United States. Additionally, in 2009, McDonough led the founding of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute to donate the Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Products Program to the public. In 2014, William McDonough was appointed by the World Economic Forum to Chair of the Meta-Council on the Circular Economy.

Michael Braungart is a chemist and the founder of the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA) in Hamburg, Germany. Prior to starting EPEA, he was the director of the chemistry section for Greenpeace. Since 1984 he has been lecturing at universities, businesses, and institutions around the world on critical new concepts for ecological chemistry and materials flow management. Dr. Braungart is the recipient of numerous honors, awards, and fellowships from the Heinz Endowment, the W. Alton Jones Foundation, and other organizations.

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The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability--Designing for Abundance 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Take only pictures, leave nothing but footprints" is an established code for the wilderness hiker. Now consider a new code that says, leave only footprints and take only pictures and the trash you find in the woods. The old rule maintains the status quo, the second makes  things better. The difference is consistent with what the authors challenge us to do in "The Upcycle" - to go beyond minimizing harm to having a positive impact, to not only be "less bad" but "more good." The authors clearly want to be known as idea people and there are indeed many good ideas here. Some are concepts turned into demonstrated success stories while many other ideas are presented as "what if" visions. Dream first, the authors advise, and worry about practical details later. Some positions the authors take will be disputed. For example, in contrast to an established ecological maxim which states that no population of species can increase indefinitely (i.e. there is a limit to growth due to resource limits), the authors claim that "limits to growth" is a false concept, and that the real problem is one of design. Also likely to be challenged is the lack of metrics needed to provide clarity and substance for the goal of being "more good." "Less bad" is a goal which lends itself to quantitative measurement (fewer accidents, less waste, etc.) and appropriate metrics for "less bad" drive progress since what gets measured usually gets done. Considerable time is taken to review their previous and highly successful book, "Cradle to Cradle." So much so, however, that it sometimes sounds a bit like an advertisement. One also wonders, just what exactly is new here, given not only "Cradle to Cradle" but other background such as the principles of green chemistry and green engineering, ecological maxims, team problem solving techniques, the precautionary principle, and of course, the intent behind the concept of sustainable development and much progress toward it. Still, there is value in restating things in a different way or context. While reading "The Upcycle" it is easy to generate your own ideas on   ways to improve products or even to manage your own property in a way that eliminates waste or that will make life better for the next generation. It is that birth of ideas in the mind of the reader which makes the book worthwhile.