Here’s an article I wrote for the October 2008 issue of Illuminate that talks about the C2C product certification program:
In 2005, McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC), founded by architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart, launched the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) product certification program. The program resulted from manufacturer requests for a label that could be displayed to potential customers and other stakeholders to demonstrate their leadership in sustainable product design and manufacturing.
Ken Alston, president and CEO, says that the Cradle to Cradle concept replaces the traditional goal of reducing the negative impacts of commerce—“eco-efficiency”—with a new model of increasing its positive impacts—“eco-effective design.”
“Cradle to Cradle takes the safe and productive processes of nature’s biological metabolism as a model for developing a technical metabolism flow of industrial materials,” he points out. “Product components should be designed for continuous recovery and reutilization as biological and technical nutrients within these metabolisms, through composting and recycling.”
MBDC awards Cradle to Cradle certification to products that meet a rigorous set of criteria related to eliminating waste through innovative design and sustainable manufacturing. The five major criteria include the use of environmentally safe and healthy materials, product design for material reutilization (such as recycling), energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in manufacturing, and efficient use of water. Products can be certified at one of four levels: Basic, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Those that receive certification can use the C2C mark in advertising and product labeling. The certification must be renewed annually.
“Green claims are everywhere,” Alston says. “Manufacturers are using self-applied benchmarks that lack independent analysis or verification. Bombarded by advertisements for products and services that claim to be environmentally friendly, cautious buyers are increasingly looking to third-party certifications to help separate the truly sustainable from what is just type.”
He adds that Cradle to Cradle certification has even broader applicability for architects and designers who design sustainable buildings. “In 2007, the U.S. Green Building Council named Cradle to Cradle certification an approved tool to help architects and designers select building and interior products for their human health, environmental and lifecycle attributes,” he says. “The use of at least 2.5% of Cradle to Cradle products can qualify suppliers for a U.S. Green Building Council LEED Innovation Credit.”
The Cradle to Cradle certification program’s participating companies include Steelcase, Haworth, Herman Miller, Milliken, Shaw and other manufacturers of interior furnishings and materials. Litecontrol, a manufacturer of luminaires, and MechoShade, a manufacturer of daylight shading devices, are the first companies in the lighting industry to gain Cradle to Cradle certification for select products. Litecontrol gained Silver certification for its entire line of architectural luminaires (not including the lamp and ballast), while MechoShade gained Silver certification for its Mecho/5 with Ecoveil product.
“For us, Cradle to Cradle documents our efforts to lead the lighting industry into a more sustainable way of operating,” says Dr. Robert Davis, director of product management for Litecontrol.
Davis says the certification process took more than a year and was challenging. One of the difficulties involved providing proprietary information and accessing proprietary information needed for certification from the company’s vendors. Getting this information required getting all parties to understand the program.
In the end, he says, the business and environmental benefits are worth the investment.
“Certification provides assurance to designers and owners that they are specifying and using products that have a third-party assessment and certification of many aspects of their sustainability,” he says. “Now architects can combine our lighting systems with other C2C products to put together a package of sustainable products for a building.”
For more information about Cradle to Cradle certification, visit c2ccertified.com.