Documentary Review: Waste = Food
By Sara Hoffman
Have you ever wondered what was going on deep inside the business and design world to inspire the creation of a greener product? For example, what exactly makes it so much more environmentally friendly than its predecessor? The answers are enlightening. “Waste=Food” focuses on two outstanding green innovators: William McDonough, an American architect and Michael Braungart, a German chemist and former Greenpeace activist. They're the authors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, a book which describes their plan for saving the world from too much waste.
McDonough, the American architect, designer and engineer, describes waste simply as “a very bad business proposition” – it doesn’t make financial sense for companies like Ford Motor Company, Nike and Herman Miller to dispose of raw materials and then go buy new ones to make more products. McDonough said, “The fundamental transformation will occur because of economic forces. It won’t be because of some moral issue of some technical revelation. It will be because waste is basically stupid.”
The waste=food concept comes simply from nature: in nature, waste is no problem because waste is food for growth. The idea works for McDonough and Braungart because they also focus on the economic advantages of making products to be reusable or biodegradable. In helping Herman Miller Furniture Company build a chair that is easy to disassemble; this in turn made the assembly process go more quickly. The need for raw materials is also smaller as they now can re-use the material from the chairs returned to them.
Did you know that it takes 50,000 pounds of raw material to make a 3,000 pound car? Product producers like Ford now are now realizing how nonsensical statistics like these are. The renovation of the River Rouge Ford Plant, which may now look like an environmental utopia, actually saved Ford $35 million dollars. Making business sense out of sustainability (a term Braungart deems “the bare minimum – you wouldn’t want to call the relationship with your girlfriend just sustainable, would you?”) is a most important part of this green revolution. “I don’t have time for dreamers,” said Bill Ford of his rather newfound appreciation for environmentalism. The cradle to cradle plan is already implemented on a large scale, around the world.
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