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Design for Good

Green Products Innovation Institute: Cradle to Cradle Design, Standardized

In the age of greenwashing and eco-everything, it's becoming increasingly hard to standardize and fairly assess what constitutes a green product. The USDA has attempted to do this for food with its organic labeling system and the architecture world has its LEED certification for buildings, though even these systems have faced significant controversy over the years. But what about common household products, from toiletries to furniture?

This week witnessed the historic launch of nonprofit Green Products Innovation Institute, founded on the principles of cradle-to-cradle design, or C2C, coined by architect William McDonough and chemist Dr. Michael Braungart. (For a succinct and compelling introduction to this philosophy, see McDonough's excellent 2005 TED talk.)

GPII aims to transform the production and consumption of goods into a regenerative force for the planet, inspiring industry to reach new levels of environmental and human health. By promoting an innovation-based model for removing toxic chemicals and other pollutants from products, GPII hopes to rethink the future of how products are designed, manufactured, used and reused in a way that spurs ecological, economic and social prosperity.

Backed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and co-founded by sustainable product design prodigy Yves Behar (remember him?), GPII will introduce a next-generation Cradle to Cradle certification protocol and offer training materials for product designers and manufacturers to attain that certification.

Cradle to Cradle reconciles the notion of business growth with the health of the world and its people. It is simply THE future opportunity for change on a scale never achieved by the design profession, and the only reason big business, governments and consumers will be moved to a new way of making and consuming." ~ Yves Behar

Also in development is an open, public database that tracks product chemical data and suggests alternative chemicals, materials and processes, offering transparency to the public and helping companies reformulate to create new, better products.

Currently, GPII features 15 certified products, ranging from Method soap to Wet Women surf wax to Herman Miller chairs. You can follow the project's progress via their freshly launched Twitter feed and get involved by endorsing the movement.

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of miscellaneous interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine and Huffington Post, and spends a shameful amount of time on Twitter.

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