A Green Business Model: Cradle to Cradle

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Image credits: Pixabay

The importance of new business models like Cradle to Cradle cannot be emphasised enough. It promotes circular economy and sustainability by reducing resource drain and waste production.

The closed loop Cradle to Cradle design breaks free from the conventional linear model of production, consumption and disposal as waste.

Conventional production requires a continuous supply of new materials, whether they are non-renewable metals or renewable bio-based materials. Mining for new materials not only destroys fragile ecosystems, but metals being limited in supply will eventually diminish to a point where mining them becomes uneconomical and unfeasible. Moreover, most of the metals have no real substitute (1). Even if bio-based materials from wood or crops are used, it places additional demand on land and other resources which can compete with production of food or fodder. This has already happened due to widespread promotion of bio-fuels.

Many production processes can also be harmful to the environment or people involved in the production. Furthermore, the design used in production of goods also generates waste at the end of the product life. The life of most products can be extended by repair, reuse and recycling. Ultimately though at least part of the materials used to make a product will end up as waste and in a landfill. This is the result of the conventional linear model.

Cradle to Cradle design differs by addressing the issue of waste not as an after-thought but during the product development and design phase. Care is taken to design products so that at the end of their life, different components can be disassembled and reused to make new products. Or the separated parts can be used to make new material. So though mined metals are used they never end as waste, and biological materials are composted. Cradle to Cradle design also depends on using materials that have no or little impact on the environment, during production and use or at the end of the product life. Use of renewable energy and avoiding pollution of water during production minimize impact during production (2).

This calls for not just scientific and technological innovations, but also a well-coordinated take-back system. Thus all sectors of the business have to function towards achieving a circular economy. Needless to say the customer’s cooperation is integral to the process.

This closed-loop model of business is becoming increasingly popular, and many countries and corporations around the world are using it. Since it was introduced in 1987, the concept has come a long way. The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute certifies products made by applying its principles. These products range from fashion products like nail polish, detergents, garments, furniture to building material (3).

In a world defined by consumerism and fast innovation, it is not always necessary to sacrifice convenience or turn frugal to save the environment. Business models like Cradle to Cradle design can provide sustainable and green solutions by avoiding many of the environmental problems created due to current production methods.

  1. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140314-the-worlds-scarcest-material
  2. http://www.epea.com/about/
  3. http://www.c2ccertified.org/


How An Individual Can Protect The Environment

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Protecting Our Environment

It is easy to decry the state of the environment and talk at length about the problems. The next step of fixing the problems and clearing the mess is more difficult.

There is ample information available now on cause and effect of different pollutants that pollute air, water and land. The solutions for these problems have also been worked out. In many cases these have involved innovations that the industries have been taking advantage of in the light of demand by consumers for greener products.

The article ‘Ways to Stop Pollution‘ cites many ways that much of major pollutions can be addressed. While all pollutions involve actions by individuals, the corporate sector and the government, keep in mind that the corporate sector is producing goods that require a market and consumers.

So there is a great deal that individuals can do to fix the major environmental challenges facing the world. A scientific study by a Norwegian team published in 2015, was carried out using data from 43 countries and about 200 products. They found products made for individual use was responsible for ‘60% of GHG global emissions’. Moreover, 50% to 80% of natural resources like land, materials, and water are used to manufacture goods used by households (1). Food was a major component and was responsible for 48% to 70% of the environmental impact that a household has on the environment. They found that the developed countries have a bigger impact, but many developing countries with rising income are also major contributors to pollution (1).

So by keeping the environment in mind while making purchases, individuals can be a major driving force in protecting the environment.

The article Ways to Stop Pollution  was written for the digital magazine LoveToKnow, and was published this year, and provides some suggestions. This list is obviously not exhaustive and people can get imaginative in finding many other ways  to tackle pollution.

  1. Ivanova D, Stadler K, Steen-Olsen K, Wood R, Vita G, Tukker A and EG Hertwich. 2016. Environmental Impact Assessment of Household Consumption. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 20: 526–536. doi:10.1111/jiec.12371