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Chapter I - "Good rather than less bad": the circular approach

January 01, 2011

The depletion of the world’s natural resources is inextricably linked with the generation of an increasing quantity of unwanted by-products, among which domestic and industrial waste, as well as various harmful emissions, are the most problematic. Put simply, industrial processes and the lifestyles that feed on it consume energy and commodities i.e. deplete finite reserves to create products whose fate is, in the vast majority of cases, to end up in landfill. The current model is unquestionably linear, and from the following diagram, it is quite clear that it is bound to reach its own limits:

© Graham Pritchard / Ellen MacArthur Foundation
© Graham Pritchard / Ellen MacArthur Foundation

This realisation triggered the thought process of a few scientists and thinkers, one of whom is Walter Stahel, an architect, economist and one of the founding fathers of industrial sustainability. Credited with having coined the expression “Cradle to Cradle” in the late 1970s, Stahel worked at developing a “closed loop” approach to production processes and created the Product Life Institute in Geneva more than 25 years ago. Its main goals are product-life extension, long-life goods, reconditioning activities and waste prevention, and it is considered as one of the first pragmatic and credible sustainability think tanks. Companies such as Kodak, DuPont, the BBC or Bosch are today among its list of clients.

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