Cradle to Cradle Design - What it Means for Cities

Ask yourself, how cool would it be if the soles of your shoes were biodegradable? All those little bits of rubber worn away could provide nutrients for plants instead of poisoning the environment. What if everything we consumed provided the necessary ingredients for something else we consume? Ask yourself, what if every system worked that way? What would our cities look like? How would they function?



According to William McDonough, a well respected architect, our cities would be self-sustaining. These cities could produce their own electricity, and nearly everything, once it has been consumed, can be recycled or repurposed. McDonough's project has been indefinitely postponed, and other such planned developments in China have met a similar fate. However, that has not stopped others from attempting to integrate cradle to cradle design into their systems.
Read more: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/5084852.stm
Read more: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/chinas_grand_plans_for_eco-cities_now_lie_abandoned/2138/

Chinese farmers tending fields atop urban buildings

The Netherlands, in-line with its long tradition of progressive thinking, is attempting to use cradle to cradle ideas on a regional scale. "The intention is to boost social, economic and environmental welfare internally in the region whilst at the same time creating a knowledge base which can be exported across Europe and internationally." To do so, transportation systems, energy production systems, food systems, water systems, and waste systems will be tweaked to rely on each other system in a sustainable, ecological and energy friendly manner. Read more: http://www.dac.dk/en/dac-cities/sustainable-cities-2/all-cases/master-plan/venlo-first-cradle-to-cradle-region-in-the-world/

Concept drawing of Venlo, Netherlands

There are other examples popping up around the glove as people become more aware of our ecological and human impacts. One thing to note between the two examples highlighted here is the presence of public participation in the planning process. In China, the local people who would be directly effected had virtually no knowledge that these types of plans were even on the table when, in fact, they were being implemented. That lack of local public involvement was cited as a reason for the project's demise. In the case of Venlo, cradle to cradle design was in the public consciousness and was popularly supported. There seems to be a correlation between grass roots support for sustainable design and the implementation of sustainable design. So keep reading and visit often. Please share these stories and create awareness in others.

If you were to design a cradle to cradle system in your community, what would it be? How would it work?

Comments

  1. This post made me think about how nature harnesses and converts energy in the cycle of life. When I think about cities producing their own electricity, I think of how plants use Radiant Energy + CO2 + H2O to produce glucose, which is then consumed by other animals, who themselves eventually die and redeposit nutrients from decay back into the soil. The plants then use the nutrients in the soil to keep converting energy! See the cycle? Humans have learned how to harness solar power and convert it into energy, but it stops there. We consume it, and don't redeposit anything back to the earth in a reciprocal way. How can we complete the cycle of energy exchange, instead of stopping at consumption?

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