Imagine a world in which industry, yes, every factory and every building is as wasteful and as useful as a cherry tree in full bloom. A world, in which buildings – just like trees – use the sun’s energy, produce nutrients and oxygen, provide living space for other creatures, cleanse water, purify the air and even change to adapt to the seasons. A world without environmental pollution or waste, where only products with materials that are beneficial to both man and the environment are manufactured. A world, in which materials are of such high value that they flow in specially designed material cycles.
A world, in which humans can actually be pleased about the benefits their consumption has on the environment. A world, in which humans are freed from and no longer have to live under the restraints and limitations placed on them by always having to save, reduce, and cut down on certain things for the sake of the environment. That is exactly the kind of world that the Cradle to Cradle® design concept opens up to all of us.
The terms “Eco-efficiency” and “Eco-efficacy” are often used interchangeably. There is, however, a significant difference between the two. Rather than minimizing the material flows, eco-efficacy proposes the idea of transforming products and their respective material flows so that a workable relationship between ecological systems and economic growth is made possible. The aim here then is not to reduce or delay the cradle to grave material flow but rather to create metabolisms that allow for methods of production that are true to nature and in which materials are used over and over again.
The eco-efficiency approach takes into consideration only quantifiable parameters which outline those problems that should be minimized (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions) whereas the eco-efficacy approach additionally factors in qualifying parameters (e.g. the use of carbon dioxide as a nutrient). Cradle to Cradle®-design seeks to superimpose the principle of quality before quantity onto industrial systems. Materials and material flows are then designed in such a manner so as to be beneficial in terms of the regeneration of their biological and technological sources. Such an approach frees us from our current responsibility and duty to reduce or slow down any negative environmental effects our behavior has. As such, we can be freed from the restraints placed upon us as a result of our prevalent culture of self-blame.