So there I was in the scary attic yesterday getting the Christmas lights when I saw these wooden doll cradles and rocking horses, one of each for each of my girls, being saved for their children one day. It took my breath away (well, the little mouse droppings on the top step did that, too).
You see, the "cradle to college" stage is almost done in our house, at least for my older daughter. And with so much grim news all the time about how college grads can't get jobs and the world is going to hell in a handbasket, the site of those cradles reminded me of the exciting new stage ahead, at least for product innovation.
I attended the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute's lunch presentation in Atlanta this past Friday. Based on the famous book, this non-profit has already certified something like 150 products that really have no end to their life cycle. Laundry detergent. Building materials. Packaging. Fabric. Shoes. You name it. They are designed in such a way that they can be returned to nature or returned to manufacturing for reuse. The highest level of certification is extremely hard to achieve, not because companies aren't trying but because the needed materials are not yet available. In fact, it is estimated that about 65% of the materials needed for complete cradle-to cradle product design do not yet exist. What's more, product design that not only is "less bad" but actually "more good" (such as carpets that clean air) is surging. The golden years of scientific breakthroughs in product innovation to address a changing world have officially begun. (Yet my younger daughter attends a middle school that does not participate in the county science fair . . .) Lewis Perkins, the extraordinarily passionate senior vice president of the C2C Product Innovation Institute , said that the experience of pregnancy is the "gateway drug" (so to speak) to environmentalism for many women (and women, by the way, make 85% of all consumer purchasing decisions and overwhelming prefer to choose environmentally-conscious products when available). As I look at those cradles in the attic now and realize how much raising children has changed my worldview and my feeling of responsibility for my children's children, I'd have to say, Lewis, that I agree with you.
They say the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Now, let's see how the designers who make cradle-to-cradle products change it.