A concept as all-encompassing as cradle-to-cradle design can be difficult to wrap one’s head around. But at its core are simple, though perhaps revolutionary principles.

If you imagine all of the elements involved in the design, production and manufacturing of a product as one organism, or one organic system, you’ll have the basic framework. All of the materials are designed for the maximum health of the system.

This means that the raw materials of the product, which under the cradle-to-cradle model fall into the categories of “technical nutrients” and “biological nutrients” typically have little or no toxic or adverse effects on the environment or the end user.

Ideally, the synthetic materials required can be reused with no decrease in product integrity. And the biological nutrients can be disposed of harmlessly and decompose into the soil.

The idea is perhaps stated most simply in a book called Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough & Michael Braungart: “Imagine a world in which all the things we make, use, and consume provide nutrition for nature and industry–a world in which growth is good and human activity generates a delightful, restorative ecological footprint.”

As with any concept as far-reaching as this one, however, there are pros and cons to choosing a cradle-to-cradle model for a product. Here are some strengths and weaknesses of this idea.

Pro: Environmental Concerns This is the obvious and most attractive feature of the cradle-to-cradle design system. When the materials are safe, then the consumer is safe, and perhaps more importantly, the ecosystem is safe. When utilized correctly, C2C ensures the smallest possible environmental footprint.

Pro: Economical Concerns

Despite some misconceptions, an environmentally sound production plan doesn’t have to be a more expensive option. In fact, in a C2C system, since manufacturing resources, or technical nutrients, are often reused, it can often save money.

Pro: Sustainability

Once a C2C plan has been established and the materials have been sourced, the product can be manufactured at the same level of speed and quality. The model can be repeated indefinitely as long as the biological and technical nutrients are available and correctly sourced.

Con: Reliability of supply chain

Just one variation in a technical or biological nutrient supplier’s method can result in a disturbance in the C2C plan. Trust and integrity are as vital to this business model as to any other. And it might take more time than is typical to establish a reliable supply chain.

Con: Modification Difficulties

There’s a certain lack of flexibility in the C2C design that might make it difficult for a manufacturer to make a product line more varied or diverse. Given the how specific the model is for how a product is made and what goes into making it, it’s hard to imagine introducing a variation on a particular product, let alone an entirely new product, without essentially going back to square one to find the right technical and biological nutrients. This is perhaps the most potentially negative aspect of using the C2C model.

In the end, the feasibility of a C2C system probably depends equally on the product, the manufacturer and the end user. Once the model is up and running and all the components have been scrutinized, C2C can be an effective, financially sound and environmentally safe way to create a product. But a business looking for more flexibility might want to choose a different way to manufacture. If you’re looking to manufacture your product, Pivot can help. Read about our manufacturing services here.