UCLAx Cradle to Cradle: class 9

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This is one in a series of documents that follow my UCLA winter 2010 course titled Cradle to Cradle: Closed Loop Systems. This interdisciplinary course contributes to the school's Certificate of …

This is one in a series of documents that follow my UCLA winter 2010 course titled Cradle to Cradle: Closed Loop Systems. This interdisciplinary course contributes to the school's Certificate of Global Sustainability.

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  • 1. UCLAx class 9 1 UCLAx Cradle to Cradle: class 9 For our ninth class we return to our normal class room, but at an alternate time and date. This week was a make-up class required due to a scheduling conflict. We continued discussion of an earlier topic - waste reduction - and transitioned to resource preservation. In previous classes where waste was discussed, we focused only on  municipal solid waste (MSW). What we see at the curb in trash cans, in dumpsters, in garbage trucks, and eventually in landfills is just the tip of a very large waste iceberg. MSW represents just one percent of all waste produced in the United States. The other 99% is waste produced that does not go through the MSW system and does not end up in municipal landfills. 57% is classified as waste produced by industrial processes. The average consumer product generates many more times as much waste as finished product. Another 40% is classified as special and usually includes hospital or medical waste, dangerous or possibly toxic chemicals, or other waste that requires special treatment as part of its disposal. And a final 2% is classified as hazardous and is usually military, government, or highly controlled, such as nuclear waste. What’s not typically counted, yet represents an even larger amount, is agricultural waste. It’s not usually included in waste calculations because it’s difficult to measure and usually stays on the property where it was generated. Over the past two hundred years, industrialized processes have become very efficient, yet continue to produce a significantly larger percentage of waste material in comparison to finished product. One-size-fits-all and other monoculture strategies rely on brute force to produce the greatest amount of mass consumable product following universal design strategies at the lowest possible cost. McDonough and Braungart give an excellent example of this in their book Cradle to Cradle by describing how “major soap manufacturers design one detergent for all parts of the United States or Europe, even though water qualities and community needs differ.” Some regions of the country have hard water, requiring more detergent to work. Other regions have soft water, requiring less detergent to work. The product is designed to work under any condition in any location. Therefore, waste is inevitable. In addition to reconceptualizing the idea of what constitutes waste, cradle to cradle strategies need to rethink the use of raw materials and preserve natural resources by using less and developing selection strategies that reduce waste. Within the building materials world, there are new products being introduced every month. Some of them are taking a serious look at resource management. Designers of all kinds, whether they be architects, interior designers, industrial designers, graphic designers, set www.threadcollaborative.com ➜ threadcollaborative 11250 morrison street no. 201, north hollywood ca 91601
  • 2. UCLAx class 9 2 designers, product designers, or any other need to look at materials, resources, and their sourcing prior to or in conjunction with design. I can say that in the architectural world, too much design is done before materials are considered. Like the detergent example, this inevitably leads to inefficiency and waste. We’ve developed our own material selection criteria and group products in six categories - those with a high percentage of recycled content (with a grading scale of A, B, and C for both post-consumer and post-industrial content), those that can be reused or repurposed, those made with rapidly renewable resources (with a grading of renewable, rapidly- renewable, and hyper-renewable based on time to reach biological maturity), those that contribute to the reduced use of virgin sources, those that rethink technology, and those that are locally cultivated. We’ve posted about this subject several times (read here) so we won’t go into detail with this post. There is a rapidly growing collection of excellent sustainable materials. The class and I had a great time looking at and discussing these potential options. As the market begins to prove its viability, new companies are entering the marketplace and older established companies are starting to change their existing practices. Significant movement is underway, even while the world economy is struggling. Companies old and new are seeking new processes and new options for raw materials that reduces waste produced before the product reaches the consumer. Which is where most of the waste is generated. I'm very optimistic that progress is being made and we're moving in the right direction. www.threadcollaborative.com ➜ threadcollaborative 11250 morrison street no. 201, north hollywood ca 91601