Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

Hello again dear readers! Once again it seems as though I need to apologise for my long absence on this blog. I have been feeling a bit of blogger burnout, on top of being kept very busy between designing projects for clients, my own home project, and the charity that I am a trustee for. I hope you’ve been keeping up with my news on Facebook and Twitter!

Anyway, today is Earth Day. A day that marks our global fight for a clean environment. It is a topic that I have a bit of a passion for, and I didn’t want to let today pass without me posting something on my blog.

So what exactly is a clean environment? I think that the clearest explanation of exactly what constitutes a clean environment is the Cradle to Cradle® philosophy described in the book Cradle to Cradle by Michael Braungart and William McDonough.

Cradle_to_cradle

But, what does this philosophy actually mean, and how we can all start to apply it to our lives? As Albert Einstein so rightly said, “The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation.”.

Most of us today are aware of the damaging influence that us humans are having on planet earth, and the term ‘eco-friendly’ is now a common phrase in our vocabularies. But, where did it all start?

To answer this question, we need to go back in time to the industrial revolution – a period of massive and rapid change, but also one of great optimism and faith in the progress of humankind. Prior to this, agriculture had been the main occupation for centuries, and industry only consisted of craftspeople working individually as a side venture to farming. But, with the invention of the spinning jenny, patented in 1770, this was all to change as industrialists, engineers and designers worked to make products as efficiently as possible and to get the greatest volume of goods to the largest number of people. The result was huge economic growth and a more equitable standard of living to both rich and poor.

Spinning Jenny
Image Sophienburg Museum.

However, for all its good, the industrial revolution has also resulted in billions of pounds of toxic material being put into the air, water, and soil every year, requiring thousands of complex regulations to keep people from being poisoned too quickly, as well as eroding the diversity of species and cultural practices.

Early industries relied on a seemingly endless supply of natural resources. Today our understanding of the natural environment has changed dramatically, but modern industries still operate according to early models, with a cradle-to-grave mind-set. “It is focussed on making a product and getting it to a customer quickly and cheaply without considering much else.” It is also geared towards a ‘one size fits all’ mentality that doesn’t take into consideration local conditions and customs.

Not only that, but many of the raw materials used in modern manufactured products are actually harmful to humans, and the off-gassing from these products (appliances, carpets, wallpaper adhesives, paints, building materials, etc) results in the average indoor air quality being more contaminated than outdoor air, leading to a general decline in health.

In order to turn this position around, it is not good enough just to be ‘less bad’. We need to do more than reduce, reuse and recycle. What we need today is a total mind shift, and this is where the Cradle to Cradle philosophy comes into play. We need to be striving to produce products and systems where the wastes themselves are completely healthy and biodegradable in order to be safely absorbed into the air, water and soil. Instead of just making the wrong things less bad, we need to start designing with the focus on the ongoing life of materials. For our innovations to become effective we need to design on the understanding that ‘waste’ does not exist – ‘waste is food’.

Earth Day

If this philosophy doesn’t challenge us to do more to protect Planet Earth, I’m not sure what will.

A list of all approved Cradle to Cradle products can be found on the Cradle to Cradle website.

“Glance at the sun.
See the moon and the stars.
Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings.
Now, think.”

Hildegard von Bingen

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