It is popular and adopted modern policy to follow the tenets and practices that encompass the traditional 'Reduce, Reuse and Recycle' approach to waste management. As youths our generation was taught the foundations of such practices in school in the hopes that the knowledge we gained would be passed down to future generations to adopt as their own, and so forth. These practices are commonplace in our green haven of Portland, Oregon, as compost buckets distributed by the city, semi-regular waste pick-ups, and a wealth of local waste management initiatives exist within the greater Portland area.
However, as we move forward to the next generation(s) of eco-conscious citizens a more measured, calculated, and overall beneficial approach to environmental sustainability will take precedence in the communities of not only Portland, Oregon, but the rest of the planet as well. Reduce, reuse, and recycle only goes so far in terms of resource and utility maximization, and a new mantra will take hold, particularly as resources continue to dwindle, and climate change rears its unavoidable head on civilization;
Waste is food.
McDonough and Braungart's Cradle to Cradle mantra is seen as a departure from the traditional 'band-aid' solution of recycling products manufactured with a linear waste life cycle. Waste, in this case, is the inevitable dead end of a product designed for one-time consumption and use, and recycling these spent materials and resources doesn't alleviate the fact that the product is of no further use in the state that it is in. This flaw is by design, and more beneficial uses can be gleaned from such products if they are designed using nature as a template.
In nature everything is seemingly connected to everything - waste is reintegrated into another natural entity or organism via nutrient cycling and decomposition. Cradle to Cradle espouses nature's grand and simplistic cyclical design, opting instead to consider designing products that have after-life purposes and can contribute to something new, such as shopping bags that can be used as nutrients for garden soil, or even natural means of storm water treatment. Ideas such as solar panels that are structurally designed like plant leaves, automobile frames that mimic tree structure in terms of stress distribution, and audio devices and radio chips that mimic the technology of human hearing are all part of this cyclical design philosophy that can revolutionize the way we as humans envision life on this planet.
The philosophy begins with action and initiative. For more information on a wonderful Portland-based organization that promotes such biomimicry designs and initiatives visit oregon.biomimics.net.