This is an inspiring documentary on William McDonough and Michael Braungart, who wrote Cradle to Cradle, what many consider to be one of the new bibles of sustainable production. I thoroughly enjoyed the book itself, and have to admit, it’s the first and only book I’ve ever read designed to be not only waterproof but which can be wiped clean of its non-toxic inks with hot water to be printed as a new book! The movie describes many of the projects the pair (a German scientist and an architect) have been a part of, and some of the impressive successes they’ve had. It also highlights, though, just as well as the book, the main problem with their work: as cool as it is to be able to design green buildings and production methods for nasty, evil organizations like Nike, Ford or the People’s Republic of China, at the end of the day, they’d be a lot cooler if they didn’t involve clients with such rosy views of environmental destruction and slave labour.
Still, their main points are very valid: products need to be designed for their entire life cycle, and for the good of everyone involved. There are far too many toxic chemicals in virtually everything we buy which have no real need to be there. And unless we build things like cars, chairs or clothes to break down easily into useful materials (either to feed other technological processes, or which can be fed back into the ecosystem) when they’re no longer useful, we’re going to get stuck in endless cycles of resource extraction and dumping of wastes. Instead of leaving giant pits of garbage, we should be using the enormous amount of “waste” we create to build what we need to survive sustainably. As Bill Ford mentions in the movie, it takes 50 000 lbs of raw materials to create a 3000 lb car. Even if that waste was simply crushed rock (we should be so lucky), how much of it would you need to rebuild your entire house? And how much less would that house cost to heat and cool?