How about a Cradle2Cradle certification for toilets?

UDDTs in Ukunda, KenyaYou may or may not have heard of the Cradle to Cradle® design concept – an approach to environmental engineering where materials flows are analysed and optimized to enhance the quality of products for the user so that they are more practical for the user, healthier for everyone affected by the product, and beneficial for the economy and the environment.

Quality enhancement is achieved by focusing on three innovation principles:

  1. Everything is designed to be a nutrient for something else (waste = food)
  2. Use (of) renewable energy produced from current solar income
  3. Support diversity including conceptual, cultural and biodiversity.

A Cradle to Cradle trade fair, held in 2008 in Frankfurt, Germany, already showed C2C products and concepts – mainly from US, Dutch and Austrian manufacturers. This new design concept may just be one side of the medal – the other one being that William McDonough and Michael Braungart, the two inventors behind Cradle to Cradle, actually took this a step further and created a certification: the Cradle to Cradle® Certification.

Now, my question to you, dear readers, is: what do you think – would it make sense to obtain such a C2C certification for one of the existing or a future sanitation (toilet) system?

My assumption as someone who has been active in the field of sustainable sanitation is that most activists in this sector are scientists, who have in the past missed to really market their approaches. It’s because they are mainly scientists and only sometimes business people, where the creation of a problem-to-be-analyzed is more attractive than a marketable solution. This may of course be only one out of many other reasons why sanitation as such has been so neglected as an important issue for every human on this planet (don’t get me started on the public toilets situation in most countries…).

I am a great fan of the “Reinventing the Toilet“-approach, sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as I believe that real acceptance of reuse-orientated sanitation systems in the developing world will only be possible when the rest of the developed world also starts using a reinvented type of toilets.

Also, a good product may also be made of high quality materials (which could then be recycled, thus kept in a technical loop) and I can also imagine a different type of ownership for the 21st century – where products aren’t “owned” by their users, but instead leased for a period of 15-20 years. This would enable a much more natural recycling where older products would just be given back to the manufacturer.

So the question really is: would such a C2C certification be a catalyst within the redesign process, and would it be an ultimate marketing tool that would also help changing the general perception of toilets (as a taboo that no one likes to talk about)?

What do you think?

Photo credit: UDDTs in a school in Ukunda, Kenya, by Engineers without borders. Taken from the (CC)-licensed Sustainable Sanitation photo collection on Flickr.

1 comment » Write a comment

  1. Absolutely. Toilet technologies involve the recycling of nutrients essential to life. Cradle to Cradle design should be our starting point.

    C2C also brings merited attention to the challenges toilet designers and activists; one of them is the that taboo the keeps us from even getting the conversation started.

    Excellent piece. Thanks.

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