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cradle to cradle

Cradle to Cradle Certification

By Donna Pols Trump Past Rise Writer
Dec 11, 2020

Rise has written previously about zero waste for our homes. Integral to "zero waste" is the concept of a product's entire life cycle—from manufacturing to use to obsolescence. That's where the pioneering standard of "cradle-to-cradle" comes into play.

Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard is the certification that helps regulators, consumers, employees, and the industry have a clear, evident, and tangible validation of a manufacturer's commitment to their communities and sustainability. The first thing you might want to know about this certification is the meaning of "cradle to cradle." The phrase we're familiar with is "cradle to grave," right? So why the switch? As it turns out, the question is critical to the mission of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, a nonprofit based in Oakland, California, and the Netherlands.

C2C Book

review of the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart, despite mantras like "reduce, reuse, recycle," we have been stuck on a one-way cradle-to-grave manufacturing model since the Industrial Revolution. This outdated model implies that a product has one useful life—or even several if reused or recycled—but no ultimate endpoint besides waste or pollution.

What Are Some Cradle to Cradle Certified Products?

You can find a wide variety of Cradle to Cradle certified™ products online in the product registry. These products are organized in categories ranging from 'Auto and Tires' to 'Baby,' 'Building Materials, 'Fashion and Textiles' and Health and Beauty.'

Accoya Wood
Accoya Wood found on Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Products Registry

Example Product: Accoya Wood

The 'Building Materials' category includes a product called Accoya Wood. This product is an acetylation-modified wood building material that can "used for virtually anything from windows to doors, decking to cladding, and bridges to boats."

Thoma Wooden House
Thoma "Wooden House". Photo Credit: Thoma

Visionary Cradle to Cradle Product: Holz100

A particularly visionary example in which home builders and remodelers might be interested is Thoma Holz100. Holz100 is a wood construction product from Germany, which now has Canadian manufacture and distribution. It consists of horizontal and vertical wood elements that are densely layered, without gaps. This fabrication makes solid and compact construction elements. Wooden dowels penetrate the layers, and placed, the dowels soak up any residual moisture and swell into the surrounding wood. The use of dowels as connectors allows a large, solid whole to come from many individual parts. The product is an integrated and durable element created without the use of glues and metals. Thoma's website shows breathtakingly beautiful, fully-wood constructed homes.

Photo Credit: Graphenstone

Cradle To Cradle Certified Paint

But what about a product like paint? Old paint can be troublesome as it usually needs to be disposed of at a hazardous material drop-off site. Then that waste has to be dealt with over many years. One certified paint brand on the certified list is called Graphenstone. It is an indoor and outdoor paint and filler which uses graphene.  Graphene has been extolled as an "ultra-strong, ultra-thin supermaterial which could yield a technological revolution." Applications include paint, condoms, electronics, and bulletproof armor.

These are just a very few examples of hundreds of innovative and highly environmentally sustainable products described, rated, and linked on the Cradle-to-Cradle Certified™ products inventory.

Photo Credit: C2C

What Does It Mean to Be Cradle to Cradle Certified?

On the right-hand side of the webpage for each Cradle-to-Cradle Certified™ Product is a Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Scorecard. Quality categories for each product consist of the following:

  • Material Health: This category focuses on being aware of each material's chemical makeup in a product and optimizing towards safer materials.
  • Material Reutilization: Focuses on designing products to be made with materials sourced from nature that can also be safely returned to nature or industry.
  • Renewable Energy and Carbon Management: This category envisions a future where all manufacturing is powered by clean, renewable energy.
  • Water stewardship: Water stewardship zeroes in on freshwater management as an essential human right and a precious resource.
  • Social Fairness: The focus here is on the design of operations. It requires that they should honor all people and natural systems that might be affected by the manufacture, use, disposal, or reuse of a product.
Cradle-to-Cradle Certified Product Scorecard
Cradle-to-Cradle Certified™ Product Scorecard

Cradle-to-Cradle Certified™ Product Scorecard

According to the site, products receive an achievement level for each category: Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. The lowest achievement level represents the product's overall score. Note that the overall rating does not exceed the lowest rating in any category. It is also interesting to read that "this program is not based on the binary, pass/fail model, but instead incorporates the concept of continuous improvement." Please see the full standard here for an exhaustive and highly technical review of what goes into a product's rating in any quality category.

How Can A Product Become Cradle-to-Cradle Certified™?

There are several steps to achieve Cradle to Cradle Certification™, fully specified here. The certification process includes deciding if your product is appropriate for certification. For example, does it comply with the Banned Chemicals List? Then, you'll select one of several companies to assess your product. Finally, you'll work with this assessor to compile and evaluate your data and documentation. Other requirements for certification include evidence of continuous improvement and a site visit of production facilities.

Conscient Carpet Tile Interface Cradle to Cradle
Conscient Carpet Tile by Interface. Photo Credit: Cradle to Cradle

What Does Cradle to Cradle Certification Mean For Homeowners and Designers?

It's mostly good news: it is a growing trend that product manufacturers are thinking about their product's entire life cycles. Many have take-back programs to reuse and recycle obsolete or unwanted products back into their manufacturing process. One great example is Interface's Carpet Tile. While only some of their products have received certification (their Conscient Carpet Tiles, for example), if any carpet tiles need replacement, you can ask for a postage-paid envelope and send them back to the company—instead of to a landfill—where they will use it.

More and more businesses are taking this cradle to cradle approach. So, be sure to check the product registry when specifying products for your house—you might be surprised at the cool options you'll find!

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-11-22T02:04:21+0000
Donna Pols Trump

Article by:

Donna Pols Trump

Donna Pols Trump’s work has been published in literary magazines and online. She has received several Pushcart Prize nominations. Donna’s education includes degrees in Biology and Physical Therapy and a host of writing classes taken and taught at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her short story “Portage” was selected by judge Anne Tyler for first prize in a 2018 contest sponsored by december magazine.