Buy, use, throw away, repeat…?

Buy, use, throw away, repeat.

That’s the linear system that is the basis of our dominant consumer economy. The things we buy and use daily are designed to be thrown away.

This is called “Cradle-to-Grave” design because products are manufactured from virgin materials, used for a while, and finally discarded. Sure, some things get recycled, but the vast majority end up dumped in a landfill, burned, or swept out to sea.

This linear economy has resulted in billions of tonnes of garbage and massive pollution — including vast churning islands of plastic trash in the world’s oceans.

But there is a new paradigm on the horizon, one where manufacturers consciously design their products and packaging to be easily disassembled, repaired, reused and recycled.

“Cradle-to-Cradle design” represents a shift from a “take, make and throw away” model to a “Circular Economy,” where end-of-life materials become inputs for new products, just like in nature.

“Mushroom on the forest floor” by mikeyskatie (Flickr)

There is no waste in nature. Picture a forest floor: billions of years of collective evolution have created a system where nutrients and materials flow effortlessly and reciprocally, without any waste whatsoever. That is the kind of economic system we should aspire to, and nature may be our greatest teacher.

According to Cradle to Cradle pioneers William McDonough and Michael Braungart, we can “eliminate the concept of waste – not reduce, minimize, or avoid it, but eliminate the very concept,” through mindful design.

At Metro Vancouver’s upcoming Zero Waste Conference, we are pleased to welcome two Cradle to Cradle and Circular Economy experts.

Bridgett Luther

President, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute

Bridgett Luther has served as president of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute since its inception in 2010.

Ms. Luther leads the administration of the Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program, which guides continual improvement towards products that are:

  • made with materials that are safe for humans and the environment
  • designed so all ingredients can be reused safely by nature or industry
  • assembled and manufactured with renewable, non polluting energy
  • made in ways that protect and enrich water supplies, and
  • made in ways that advance social and environmental justice

Ms. Luther previously was the director of the California Department of Conservation for Governor Schwarzenegger, and serves on the US EPA’s National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, and Canada’s National Zero Waste Council.

Sandy Rodger

Lead, Project MainStream, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Last year, Dame Ellen MacArthur, elite sailor turned economic revolutionary, delivered a fascinating keynote presentation about her own inspiration to launch a foundation that works to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.

Joining us this year is Sandy Rodger, who leads the foundation’s Project MainStream, a joint effort with the World Economic Forum and McKinsey, establishing CEO-level collaboration to accelerate the transition to the circular economy.

Sandy is a business leader with 30 years industrial experience, leading manufacturing, supply chain, and R&D. He served on the board of a $9Bn Unilever business, led a business turnaround for Diageo, and was Diageo’s corporate head of R&D and safety and environment. He is an engineer with an MBA and Environmental Systems Masters, and has wider sustainability experience at urban and community level.


Advancing the Circular Economy is the right thing for businesses, citizens and the environment. Through innovation, mindful design and collaboration, we can eliminate garbage, reduce pollution and decouple growth from the constraints of natural resources.

For more information on the Zero Waste Conference 2014 and to register, please visit our website at We look forward to seeing you at Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Conference 2014.

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  1. Pingback: Five Days to Zero Waste Conference 2014 | Zero Waste Conference Blog

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