Nutec stands for: Nutrients- Upcycling- Triple Top Line - Eco-effectiveness- Community and is the name of a fair/ congress, that was held in Frankfurt Messe, Germany from the 12th - 14th November this year.
When Michael Braungart gave me a flayer in a small tend during the Howies Do Lectures earlier this year, I knew, that this international congress would be a great opportunity to deepen my knowledge in Cradle to Cradle design and network with like minded people.
The congress was packed with a full programme off different lectures and it was sometimes hart do decide, which one to choose as there where several options on at the same time. Experts from a wide industry spectrum presented innovative techniques, materials and services related the nutec philosophy.
Along the many seminars where 60 exhibiters presenting their products/services/ideas that where developed using the C2C framework demonstrating that things can change and a C2C production line is possible. Among the exhibitors where Tregema, Method, Steelcase, Triump, Nike, Der Gruene Punkt, Herman Miller and many more.
According to the Messe Frankfurt 1,200 participants from 25 different countries attended the fair with more than 50% being from abroad. Clearly indicating, that C2C is picking up globally.
For those who don't know what cradle to cradle means I suggest to read the book Cradle to Cradle: Rethinking the way we make things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.
Day 1: November 12th 2008
The congress started with an introduction into the Cradle to Cradle community and an opening speech by Michael Braungart.
He suggested humans should look at biomimicry and used the ants as an example of good team work. Humans should form a partnership with nature without having to minimalise or save resources. The resources we used should be good from the beginning so that they can be feed back into a cycle as nutrient at the end of their lives.
Claudia Langer from Utiopia (a German based internet community for consumers) explained that there has been a huge increase for a transparent product cycle. The consumer wants to know what is good and what is bad and likes to she why and how. She also mentioned Lohas and she had lots of facts to demonstrate the increase of a need for a more sustainable production process from the consumers point of view.
Angie Rattay together with Ulrich Einweg presented a fantastic talk about the importance of images and what graphic designers can do in order to bring across a message well. Their power point presentation was the best one I have seen during the whole congress.
Angie came up with this instruction on how to use the planet earth. It looks a bit like a medicine pack with the aim to suggest a 'correct' use of the earth. I think this is a super cool idea!
Marylin Johnson from IHS Dolphin, USA showed us 'real world tools for decision making' and how materials rank against each other. A growing amount of list started to emerge to show designers and engineers environmental sound materials. However a lot of work still needs to be done to manage materials in a intelligent way. Material Connextion is one of the companies who provides a material library and the only one who got C2C certified examples.
Ken Alson, MBDC and Dr. Christopher Semisch, EPEA informed us all about the C2C product certification. The certification comes in 4 stages: Gold/silver/basic/platinum. Once a product has got a C2C certificate it will be re-assessed on a yearly basic.
To gain such a certification the products needs to fulfil several criteria's such as; social responsibility, renewable energy, material safety... All materials are assessed on a ABCX scale for A = optimal, B= optimising C= tolerable and X= not acceptable.
The assessment is build on a very complex structure going into absolute every detail of the product. From they dye pigment to the production process to the work environment off all the subcontractor and suppliers of every material included in the product.
That of course is a long winded process. To asses the exact ingredient of the materials the EPEA needs the industry secrete of its composition of ingredients which often takes a while to access and are difficult to get hold off. In order to gain a transparent material flow companies should collaborate with each other instead of being each others competition.
Adam Lowry from Method Products, USA held a brilliantly inspirational impulse speech about 'Total Beauty Design' within his company.
Method make stylish looking cleaning products with out nasty chemicals. Adam talked about the importance with his relationship to his consumers and how he tries to make them feel good. He said it is important to make his customer the hero not his products.
The last talk off the first day was by William McDonough, on Cradle to Cradle Design.
McDonough introduced his and Braungards goal (Picture below) and talked about "The Next Industrial Revolution - beyond recycling and beyond eco-efficiency. Leading the industry to a effective system that is giving back to nature rather than taking from nature and polluting planet Earth.
He went on to remind us that: 'away is not away' and that we as humans have to pull on one string to make the goal above possible. McDonough explained, that: 'regulations are a sign of design failure and failure should be seen as opportunity.
He talked about the free sun and in more detail about the biological cycle and technological cycle. About closing the loop and cradle to cradle cities. Off course he also mentioned "Being less bad is not being good.
McDonough also talked about architecture and that the air in an ordinary office is 8% more polluted that in a city centre due to all the chemicals in the flooring and furniture of the building. He encouraged us to build buildings like cherry trees with a closed loop metabolism and no waist.
He explained how the C2C certification works in more details and suggested the C2C frame work.
He also put in plenty of examples of people/companies who already working within the C2C theory. Saws carpet system was mentioned and Ford Motor among many others.
Day 2: November 13, 2008
The beginning of the second day was marked with a brilliantly inspirational talk by Jenine James from The Moderns, USA. She talked about to move beyond 'green pride' and back to core competency marketing.
She 'jokingly' suggested simple steps to become green such as hire an Ad agency and PR agency. Janine then went on to analyse a selection of advertisements and most of them simple put a green leave in front of products and called it 'green'. This obviously is seen as 'green washing' rather than gaining customer royalty.
In order to become agents of change she suggested to merge all the different departments in your company and not just advertise the 'green' aspect of your product. She said environmental issues should be merged with core company strategies and advertise them together. Janine suggested to switch from a push to a pull advertisement strategy and create a brand culture so that the consumer want to be part of your company and is proud to use your products. 'Go behind branding and why you care about the future and instead make the consumer the hero'.
Stefan von Terzi from Steelcase Germany talked about his Eco-Design at Steelcase. He demonstrated Steelcase's material analysis and showed LCA's for several products.
He said all his products need to fulfil a social, ecological and economical liability before they are being produced. He also talked about the production process, transportation and usability cycles of his products but I will not bore you with more details on that.
After a short break Adam Lowry, Methods USA and Ingrid Seegers from Philips Int. NL talked about how C2C (could) work with household products. Both agreed, that there is a huge demand among the consumer for more sustainable household products. In case of Philips it obviously takes a longer time to make there products more environmental friendly but they have started. In order to get to a more eco friendly product range Ingrad said the employees at Philips need to believe themself that a change is needed and possible. She also mentioned that the performance is the most important selling point in the products and the green aspect only comes second.
Ingrid also mentioned, that 95% off all small appliances disappear into bins and attics! Simens is working hart do make it as simple/cool/attractive as possible for the consumer to return their household products.
The Netherlands: A country re-inventing itself was the topic of one of the afternoon talks. People from different industry sectors introduced what they do to create the first C2C country in the World. Schools, Towns, Waist management Companies pulling together to build the NEW Netherlands. Underlining the importance, that everyone has to start by them self and to together we can make a difference.
Ruud Sonday from the Van Gansewinkel Group, NL told us on how the waste management group is working on solution to gain important raw materials back form the waste on land fields. He mentioned that the NL recycle 80% off all their glass whereas the USA only recycle 20% off all their glass. The rest just gets burned and the USA is loosing a lot of money for not recycling and glass burns bad anyway. Waste are nowadays important nutrients that can and will be more and more feed back into the cycle.
Day 3: November 14th 2008
The last day focused on society, education and finance in relation to C2C.
The Erasmus University in Rotterdam preparing for a master in C2C Design where the students can deepen their analytical, design and process skills. Prof. Dr. Jan Rotmans from the Faculty of Social Sciences at the university plead to get away from the mono disciplinary education system and work towards a cross faculty approach to gain maximum learning outcome.
Prof. Dr. Armin Reller, University Augsburg introduced us to his work with 'Substance Stories' and how they can be antennas for a succsessful Cradle to Cradle process. Those substance stories he gathers with his students tell the story of the material from source to grave or cradle depending on the material. The aim that work is to be abel to identify the ingredients but also the environmental and social impact of the different materials. I was amazed by the detail of the material stories and scared about the fact that we still do not know much about the impact of thousands of metals.
Reller used the example zinc to show us how his substance stories work. He and his students documented how zinc is being harvested and under what inhumane condition the mine workers have to dick out the precious material. By means of maps he showed as where in the world the material is being harvested, where produced, where used and what happens with it once the product that contains the material is at it end of its used life. Most of the materials just being wasted in Landfields and valuable materials are burned into the atmosphere. Some waste management business have recognised the value of 'waste' and working on systems to retract the materials. This however needs to happen with the collaboration of the designer, producer and supplier.
Zinc for example is harvested in developing countries, nano particles are vital for the production of suncream which is used by developed counties. When the suncream is applied the zinc particles vanish (into the sea and air) and cannot be retained. Therefore a closure of the loop is not possible.
The picture shows an example of materials in just one computer. Reller also pointed out, that there are millions of nano materials we don't know anything or only little about. No one knows where those nano particles go to and what they do.
Furthermore he remarked that the gap between the production and grave of the materials is growing bigger and bigger and we need to close this gap!
Prof. Dr. Dominik Walcher and Prof. Dr. Guenther Crall from the University of applied Science in Salzburg introduced their Design and Product Management Master at their University. The course is taught with the Total Beauty Design ethos in mind, meaning it is not just enough to have a beautiful looking and good working product. The total product live cycle needs to be considerate from assembly to end of life. As an example they demonstrated the Wexla shoe, a concept similar to the 2in1 shoe that one the this years Ispo brand new award. Once finished the Wexla shoe seams to be equiped with a more sophisticated exchange mechanism and the use of sustainable materials make the Wexla an eco friendly alternative.
The end of the last day was dedicated to Energy 2020 and how affordable renewable energy might look like in 2020. Dr. Walter Huber Director of the Environment and Energy department from the province Bozen introduced South Tyrols energy plans for the future. He signalised that 'The state cannot archive much if the individual does not do his part' and suggested it is important to motivate the public to care about the environment and gain local appreciation.
South Tyrol is planning to have hydrogen option in every petrol station between Munich (hopefully) but for sure from the German/Austrial boarder to Verdena, Italy - which is a major tourist motorway - by 2020.
Michael Straub member of the Club of Rome informed us about The Solar Plan. The Union for the Mediterranean is developing ways to beneficially harvest clean power form the desserts of the world. Find out more on: www.desertec.org
The congress was an interesting event and it was great to see so many people discussing how the future of design, production and material sourcing might look like. It was also super inspirational to see something happening I am not sure what it was but it seam to be that more and more influencial people trying to work towards a sustainable future.
This shot of the EPEA and MDC stand was taken by Kukuyumoja. It illustrates the technical and biological cycle interlocked in each other. Kukuyumjas blog futures a great entry about the exhibition. I agree with him about Trigema. A great company when it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility, they even have got a job guarantee for al their current employees children!!!
They also have made the first and so far only complete biodegradable T-shirt.