Cradle to Cradle Recyclability and Embodied Energy

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  • Cradle to Cradle Recyclability and Embodied Energy
    Posted by Katherine O'Byron | 4 replies |  Last reply about 5 years and 10 months ago by Stacy Glass

    While I very much respect the recyclability of all approved  cradle to cradle products,  there are energy inputs involved in the product transformation, does cradle to cradle evaluate this use of inputs?

  • Good question, Katherine! I’d guess they do, but I’d like an answer on this from the C2C experts.

    Taylor Royle posted on October 19, 2012
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  • Hi Katherine,
    Thanks for the great question! Version 3.0 of the Cradle to Cradle Certified(CM) Product Standard has just been released and it includes a revision to the Renewable Energy requirements. Energy inputs for product transformation would certainly be addressed as part of the embodied energy requirement at the Platinum level and would be addressed for all levels if it was part of the final manufacturing stage of the product. I encourage you to check out Version 3.0 for more information (

    Susan Klosterhaus posted on November 21, 2012
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  • wow! Lot’s of marketing/product “speak”. I have no real faith in the cradle to cradle certification program. They do attempt to account for energy inputs and some amount of recycling but it is completely insufficient. Take, for example, insulation materials. Dow Polystyrene foam insulation gets a silver certification-OMG. I am a biologist/chemist with an architect/builder father who I work with. There would be no good reason on Gods green earth to use this type of insulation with all the alternatives available-many of them much, much better on performance and environmental record-but there you have it-if you use their website you might be feeling pretty good about that choice. Look at silver certification-there has to be at least “one” facility that recycles the material to qualify-is this really revolutionary? NO!! and in fact-it is the company themselves that account for the recycling facility so there is no third party verification. In any case, 99% of foam insulation winds up in landfills or burns as toxic fuel in fires-Energy inputs are one very, very small part of any building equation-cradle to cradle has the right idea but they aren’t going anywhere really useful with it.

    mfirst posted on February 8, 2013
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  • Material Reutilization is one aspect of the Cradle to Cradle Certified program. Where many certifications in the market address one aspect of a product or its production, the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard addresses five categories relating to human and environmental health. In order to achieve certification, a product must meet the requirements for a given level in all five categories. These categories are:

    • Material Health – Making products out of materials that are safe and healthy for humans and the environment
    • Material Reutilization – Designing products so all materials can be re-used by nature or industry
    • Renewable Energy and Carbon Management – Assembling and manufacturing products with renewable, non-polluting energy
    • Water Stewardship – Making products in ways that protect and enrich water supplies
    • Social Fairness – Treating all the people involved in the product manufacturing process in socially responsible ways

    It is also a continuous improvement standard. Not all Cradle to Cradle Certified products are created equal. The program recognizes that a manufacturer’s knowledge regarding the chemicals used in their product, the extent to which it can be reused in biological or technical cycles, and the energy and water used to produce it varies widely, and thus provides a continuous improvement pathway toward the development of safe and healthy products. Product certification is available at five different levels (Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum), with each higher level addressing a more rigorous set of requirements. A good faith effort toward optimization in all five categories over time is required for Cradle to Cradle Certified products at any level.

    Like so many building products, there are trade-offs to be made when selecting Insulation material. Certainly performance, cost, and other traditional measures are considered. But when we assess a range of metrics, we are faced with complicated issues relating to raw materials, production, manufacturing processes, pollutants given off during the lifecycle, durability, recyclability, and impact on indoor air quality.

    What will it take to create an insulation material that has an optimized profile for performance, cost, health, and sustainability?

    This is just the kind of thing we are hoping the $250,000 Product Innovation Challenge will help us uncover. Learn more:

    Posted by Stacy Glass, Executive in Residence for the Built Environment, Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute.

    Stacy Glass posted on February 12, 2013
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