William McDonough

In this fascinating and moving speech1 William McDonough, the author of "Cradle to Cradle", condemns our "de facto plan" in which we measure

prosperity by how much of your natural capital you can cut down, dig up, bury, burn or otherwise destroy, … productivity by how few people are working, progress by your number of smokestacks,

and offers us this new design assignment:

How do we love all the children of all species for all time?

He challenges us to reach for a triple top line of environment, equity and economy, and to reinvent our industrial systems with "Cradle to Cradle" design in which waste from one process becomes food for another and in which the production and use of toxic chemicals is anathema.

William McDonough has been hailed as a visionary, and in 1996 was the recipient of the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development. As is often the case, it may be that the man behind the ideas is not entirely who he seems to be. I don't think this should detract from the power of the ideas2; it may diminish the power of the messenger.

  1. There is also a shorter 20 minute version of the same speech available from TED Talks.
  2. The 'hit' article on William McDonough mentions GreenBlue, a non-profit organization founded by McDonough that has put together a Sustainable Packaging Coalition; and also SMaRT for Sustainable Materials Rating Technology, a comprehensive green technology standard that has been picked up by, for example, the USGBC for LEED credits.