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Publisher's Summary

"Reduce, reuse, recycle," urge environmentalists. In other words, do more with less in order to minimize damage. William McDonough and Michael Braungart argue in this provocative book that this approach perpetuates a one-way, "cradle to grave" manufacturing model that dates back to the Industrial Revolution, a model that casts off as much as 90 percent of the materials it uses as waste, much of it toxic. They challenge the notion that human industry must inevitably damage the natural world.

Why not take nature itself as our model? A tree produces thousands of blossoms in order to create another tree, yet we do not consider its abundance wasteful but safe, beautiful, and highly effective. "Waste equals food" is the first principle the book sets forth. Products might be designed so that, after their useful life, they provide nourishment for something new - either as "biological nutrients" that safely re-enter the environment or as "technical nutrients" that circulate within closed-loop industrial cycles without being "downcycled" into low-grade uses (as most "recyclables" now are).

Elaborating their principles from experience redesigning everything from carpeting to corporate campuses, the authors make an exciting and viable case for change.

©2002 William McDonough and Michael Braungart (P)2008 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"An inspiring reminder that humans are capable of much more elegant environmental solutions than the ones we've settled for in the last half-century." ( Publishers Weekly)
"A readable provocative treatise that 'gets outside the box' in a huge way. Timely and inspiring." ( Kirkus)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Sort by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 01-10-10

a step ahead

McDonough and Braungart lay out a good case for designing products so that everything can be reused once the product is beyond its useful life. Moreover, they are big fans of upcycling rather than downcycling, which they explain well. Narration is solid.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great

Great book with great ideas! I would highly recommend this book to any aspiring environmentalists!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Great Book, Sub-par Narrator

I came across this book as a tenth grader and found the first few pages mind-blowing at the time. After finally listening to it, years later, in full, I am still quite impressed. The concepts discussed are fascinating, and more importantly, NECESSARY TO IMPLEMENT, if there is to be any hope of future quality of life on planet Earth.

I say all that with the small disclaimer that the tone and choice of words do carry a white/western/male perspective. I include that, not to disparage that perspective, but to remind people that other perspectives do exist. Contributions from various perspectives should be included in the conversations and research surrounding sustainability, as the book itself subtly acknowledges.

Regret to say that the much-needed message of the book is a little overshadowed by the reader's inflection, which isn't monotonous, exactly, but repetitive. It makes paying attention more difficult, and the replayability virtually non-existent, for me. I have since obtained physical copies of both this book and its successor, "The Upcycle".

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 05-16-17

Good Idea, but little more

I read this when a friend was looking into joining an Intentional Community and this was one of the books on their suggested reading list. This is a bit long for the amount of information presented. The basic idea is simple; we can now use technology to create products that are designed to be fully reusable after they outlive the original use. This seems a bit simple and obvious, but it is not quite as simple as it sounds. The authors do not ignore the difficulties of successfully marketing, and they give a few examples, but they don’t provide a lot of specifics or strategies.

I did not find this book worth my time, simply because, once you get the simple idea, there is little more presented except a few examples with the various difficulties and successes involved.

The narration is good, but not great.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

TacosForeverTacos

good message. Monotone reader but easy to listen to. Reading this year's ago was very influential in moving me towards sustainable design in architecture.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Awful

Painful to listen to. Disliked 90% of the book. Words and ideas frequently twisted and taken out of context to suit the authors views. Many statements were downright absurd.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Slow but worthwhile

Great introductory book to green design, but can get a bit repetitive as the book goes on. There are some good nuggets in here, if you can get around the narrators very high-brow tone and the books "beat me over the head" lessons. Slow going, but worth the listen in the long run.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Innovative thinking for the present

Something I will attempt to apply to my life. The C2C website provides a resource for finding products that have been certified as C2C.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Revolutionary and inspiring thinking

Anybody in the field with the design should be forced to read this book. Mankind is expected to flirt and destroy the planet dear everybody thinking held within this.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

We NEED to rethink the way we make things

I really like the concept of sustainability it is utterly important because we use brute-force on most processes. Think about electricity production using steam in nuclear & coal plants -- we use about 20% to produce the electricity and 80% of that heat get dissipated into the air and water. I think we can do better, and books like this help us open our minds to better ways of producing.