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The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability Book Review
Lifestyle

The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability Book Review

the upcycle book by william mcdonough & michael braungartWhy we’re not ‘green’

One of the biggest complaints about sustainability is how we have to cut back. Stop standing under the faucet and limit yourself to a 5 minute shower. Reduce your energy consumption. Don’t buy as much.

The sustainability movement will never completely catch on,” a friend recently said to me. “Consumerism drives America.”

William McDonough & Michael Braungart, authors of the Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability- Designing for Abundance (out today!) would disagree.

Let’s go back to those steaming, hot showers. Although I love the environmentalist in me, I also love me some hot, steamy showers on a cold day. But what if we could filter and reuse that water, so I could stand under the faucet until my skin was wrinkly? Instead of worrying about how many fossil fuels the filter process would take, that South Philly wind could power the process.

This type of thinking is how The Upcycle challenges you to reconsider sustainability. A foreword by President Bill Clinton sets the tone that the Upcycle’s creativity and problem-solving purpose is serious.

Little did we know, ‘greening’ ourselves has been settling for less.

McDonough & Braungart are the duo who first introduced the Cradle to Cradle concept, considering the life ‘after’ a product is complete. Rather than creating products for one use, why can’t we expand our thinking to consider how the product can live on throughout generations? Since Cradle to Cradle was released over 10 years ago, I was psyched to check out the Upcycle with an advanced copy, to see how the ‘recycled’ concept has been made-over.

The Upcycle instead challenges us to additionally consider how we create the products. Why settle for a 25% recycled product when we can create a product which is 100% recyclable? Why should we settle for ‘less toxic’ materials while constructing a product when we can use all nontoxic materials – and also eliminate the gloves, masks and other ‘protective’ gear?

Worried about more of the preachy green guilt? The Upcycle addresses various environmental ‘problems’ with a positive spin. Why are we using fossil fuels (which are leftover from previous generation) when we have renewable sources like the sun and wind right outside? Why do we have to sacrifice jobs or quality for better-made materials? If we can create products that can be ‘remade’ into new goods, people will still have jobs to break the products down and mold them into new creations. We shouldn’t just think of the ‘next’ life of the product, but the next 5. We don’t have to worry about consumerism and can keep our consuming-loving lifestyles. Besides, how does it make sense to have a ‘greener’ component for an adverse affect, no matter if it’s in the same building or 1000’s of miles away?

McDonough & Braungart summarize it well: We don’t have a problem of using products. We’re using them in the wrong places.

Want to learn more? I’m not going to give you allll of the innovative points in the Upcycle. Although I highly recommend you read it for a positive spin to many sustainability problems we hear. Plus, McDonough & Braungart are brilliant. Don’t believe me? Bill Clinton doesn’t just give the foreword for anyone! (Although I DID shake his hand last November…) 😉

 

Bill Clinton The Upcycle Foreword
Right before “Willy” reached for my hand and shook it!

 

 

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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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