Cradle-to-cradle/Closed Loop

You may have heard about the concept of ‘Cradle to Grave’, where a product goes on a one-way journey from ‘birth’ to its end-of-life ‘grave’, generally in a landfill – a closed loop.

Humans are actually the only species to have designed in a one-way system of discarded materials with no designed-in nature-based circular solutions.

So, to move beyond this one-way system of resource management, it is important we challenge ourselves, our teams and our events, to embrace a closed loop, circular, cradle-to-cradle approach. a truly circular festival is a stretch goal, but one we should all be aspiring to achieve.

In fact in 2019, the Dutch government signed a ‘green deal’ to support festivals to be come just that – a circular festival. Read more. DGTL, the Dutch music festival are leading the way with their Circular Food Court

A Closed Loop System

Rather than the cradle-to-grave option, the ultimate desire for a zero-waste outcome is a Closed Loop system. This is when products that have no further use in their as-is form, re-enter the manufacturing system as valuable secondary materials. 

A product, its components, packaging, and manufacturing by-products all have the potential to become the materials from which new products are made. 

In the recycling hierarchy, ‘up-cycling’ is the ultimate goal. This is where new products are made using valuable inputs from the recycling process, and over the long-term, keeping resources out of landfill or incinerators. The alternative is ‘down-cycling’ where each time a recycled-material is used, lower and lower grade products are made. This becomes a short-term solution as these low grade products will find their home in the ground, sooner rather than later.  

By doing keeping materials in a constant flow as an input, resources can be recycled to be used again and again. This concept is known as a ‘closed-loop’.

Cradle to Cradle

The Cradle to Cradle™ (C2C) approach takes the closed-loop concept even further, looking to reorient the design of products and systems so that one feeds into the other. 

Products are designed with their eventual ‘end of life’ purpose in mind so materials can flow in continually closed loops. An important part of the design process is ensuring the product’s component parts and materials can be easily disassembled and separated from each other ensuring that the extraction of valuable secondary resources is possible and cost-effective. 

C2C Design was developed by William McDonough and Michael Braungart through their company MBDC. They have also developed a C2C Certification that ‘provides a company with a means to tangibly, credibly measure achievement in environmentally-intelligent design and helps customers purchase and specify products that are pursuing a broader definition of quality.’

McDonough and Braungart envisaged a paradigm shift to the ‘Next Industrial Revolution’in which products and services are designed based on patterns found in nature, eliminating the concept of waste entirely and creating an abundance that is healthy and sustaining. 

What does cradle to-cradle mean for events?

  • When making purchases, remember to consider the final disposability of that item
  • If buying single-use items, is the product made of an optimum material, and in such as way is can be easily broken down (disassembled) into components so parts can be recycled and returned to the manufacturing cycle as secondary materials?
  • Consider every material that makes its way onto the event site and imagine how it can be a resource to feed the circular economy.