Makower + McDonough on The Upcycle


Joel Makower of GreenBiz interviewed William McDonough about his new book, co-authored with Michael Braungart, called The Upcycle.

Published April 15, 2013

Excerpt from

This week marks the publication of The Upcycle:Beyond Sustainability — Designing for Abundance, by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. It’s their first book since their 2002 book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, a bestseller that helped change the conversation about designing and manufacturing, envisioning a closed-loop system where every material was returned to the soil, or back into the manufacturing process with no harm or loss of quality.

The Upcycle takes the next step, envisioning what’s possible through a series of “evocations,” as McDonough calls them. (You can read an excerpt here.) The book ties together the impressive contributions McDonough and Braungart have made over the past quarter century, individually and together, toward the goal of re-envisioning commerce.

I took the opportunity of the book’s publication to catch up with McDonough, a longtime colleague and friend, to hear more about this next-gen view of the world of business. The following has been edited for clarity and length.

Joel Makower: Tell me about the title of this book, how you came to The Upcycle fromCradle to Cradle.

William McDonough: In Cradle to Cradle, we talked about the fact that often what we currently call recycling could be revisited, because of various issues around it, one of which was what we characterized as downcycling, where things are actually being hybridized with other materials, losing quality in the process of reuse. A food-grade clear plastic, for example, might be mixed with other plastics and become a flower pot, or a park bench, or a speed bump. It’s really a material losing quality on its way to a landfill or incinerator. Recycling should mean that you’ve been able to recycle it at the same level of quality.

See the full post here.