Science - February 21, 2008

Creative cradle to cradle session

Design ‘top-secret’ products capable of conquering the virtual market. That was the assignment at the workshop that concluded the RUW Cradle-to-Cradle week on Thursday 14 February. The products that the participants worked on all exist, but are not yet available in a C2C form.

At the cradle-to-cradle Product Analysis workshop.
Divided into four groups, the students set to work on a nappy, a salt cellar, a handbag and a ballpoint pen, but first they were given a brief introduction on Cradle to Cradle from RUW and Wageningen Environmental Platform members. The concept is the brainchild of Michael Braungard, and William McDonough, an architect and a biochemist. The aim is to close and optimise cycles, and C2C distinguishes itself from existing sustainability concepts by not focusing on changing consumers’ behaviour but on changing production processes.

While busy thinking up ‘improved’ products, the students discuss heatedly among themselves about the concept itself. Not everyone is convinced about C2C. ‘I think we should stimulate behaviour changes in consumers as well,’ says Roan Lakerveld, a member of WEP. Nabi Abdaldah, who’s studying Business and Consumer Studies, does not agree: ‘We need to stop trying to change behaviour. That’s exactly why so many of these initiatives don’t succeed. We’d do much better to look at existing processes and make them more sustainable and conscious. That’s the principle of cradle to cradle and why it can become a success.’

Designing the durable diaper involves more than just looking: diapers are taken apart and all components subjected to close examination. After testing, it is affirmed that the absorptive material should be made of a kind of salt. The students present a number of ideas involving a seven-step plan.

‘The solutions we’ve come up with this evening are just a start, but hopefully they will get people interested in the concept. We’ve learned that we don’t know enough about materials, but most concepts could have less impact on the environment and still be functional and comfortable,’ concludes Ruben Borge, one of the RUW coordinators. ‘There’s certainly been enough interest to convince us that we should pursue the theme.’

The evening ends with the announcement of a competition: design a good C2C coffee package. Jeroen Kruft, who started his own sustainable organic coffee company in Ecuador, is offering the prizes. Every good idea wins a pack of coffee, and the winner will receive a year’s worth of free coffee. Who could say no to that? / Amrish Baidjoe

Want to take part in the competition? Mail your idea or question to: email('info',amigos-international.org');

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