Heroes of Sustainability: St. Francis of Assisi

“My hero is St. Francis of Assisi because he understood the connection between spirituality and the environment. He understood the way God communicates to us most forcefully is through the fishes and the birds and the trees and that it is a sin to destroy those things.” — Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

As the patron saint of ecology and animals, St. Francis of Assisi was an environmentalist ahead of his time. He saw himself as part of the world’s ecosystem, equal with all other creatures, whom he referred to as his “brothers” and “sisters.”

Francis was born into privilege around 1181, living a relatively carefree life in Italy until he was taken as a prisoner in a military expedition against Perugia in 1201 and held captive for a year. A few years later, he suffered a serious illness and then enlisted in the army, and returned home after having a strange vision.

Shortly after, he embarked on a life of poverty against the wishes of his father, a wealthy cloth merchant. Although he chose not to be ordained as a priest, he eventually founded a new religious order, the Franciscan order.

A Respect for All Creatures
His connection to nature and the earth was one of the things for which Francis is most remembered. In one story, he was traveling with companions when they found a tree-lined road with a number of birds. He preached to the birds, touching their heads with his tunic. “At these words, the birds gestured a great deal, in their own way,” wrote Thomas of Celano. “They stretched their necks, spread their wings, opened their beaks and looked at him. They did not leave the place until, having made the sign of the cross, he blessed them and gave them permission.”

In another story, he came upon a village that was being tormented by a wolf that was killing both animals and humans. Francis went and talked to the wolf, ordered him not to hurt anyone, and made a deal with the townspeople that they would feed the wolf so long as he would stop committing crimes against them. The animal moved its body and nodded its head in agreement, and for two more years until the wolf died of old age, they all coexisted peacefully.

The Sacredness of Life
During World Environment Day in 1982, Pope John Paul II asked Catholics to remember St. Francis of Assisi and “not to behave like dissident predators where nature is concerned, but to assume responsibility for it, taking all care so that everything stays healthy and integrated, so as to offer a welcoming and friendly environment even to those who succeed us.”

He later wrote of the saint: “In 1979, I proclaimed Saint Francis of Assisi as the heavenly Patron of those who promote ecology. … As a friend of the poor who was loved by God’s creatures, Saint Francis invited all of creation — animals, plants, natural forces, even Brother Sun and Sister Moon — to give honor and praise to the Lord.”

Francis showed through actions and not just words that all of nature is worth preserving. As German writer-philosopher Max Scheler said: “Where the modern cynic sees something ‘buglike’ in everything that exists, St. Francis saw even in a bug the sacredness of life.”

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Heroes of Sustainability: Sarah Susanka

In a country that values McMansions, architect Sarah Susanka has a different idea: build better, not bigger.

The England native moved to the U.S. in the early ’70s and has remained in the States since. She was baffled when she first arrived as a teenager at the fact that American homes had the same formal living rooms and dining rooms that the English homes had, yet no one used them. “Every time I went over to my friends’ houses, they all ate every meal in the kitchen — at the kitchen table,” she said in an interview with Chris O’Leary. “And I kept looking into those rooms that in my life had always been the heavily used ones and thought, ‘Well what do they do with those?’”

After getting a bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon, Susanka earned her master’s in architecture at University of Minnesota, all the while working at different architecture firms. Her first book, The Not So Big House, was published in 1998 and laid out her philosophy: quality is better than quantity. Instead of striving for huge and expansive rooms that never get used, building something comfortable, warm, and personalized makes a lot more sense for you — and the environment.

In addition to her first book, Susanka has written eight bestsellers (with more than 1.2 million copies sold), all of which support the idea that to truly be “at home,” we have to create spaces and lives that reflect who we are, not the Joneses we’re trying to keep up with.

Sustainability Values    
“I always say that the first step in sustainability should be not so big. If you’re doing something that is right-sized for you as opposed to overly large, it’s going to be something that people will want to look after for the long haul,” Susanka said in an interview with Around the House with KPLU.  “It’s also more sustainable in terms of its energy use and its consumption of natural materials. And perhaps most important of all, from an architect’s standpoint, the structure needs also to be beautiful. When something is beautiful, it tends to be looked after for generations to come. Just look back at the bungalows of a hundred years ago, and you’ll see that they’ve kept their value and their character, because people look after them. That’s a big step in sustainability, even though we don’t normally think of it that way.”

Getting Creative
To see a prime example of Susanka’s design principles, look no further than the Not So Big Showhouse at SchoolStreet in Libertyville, Illinois, which demonstrates the ideas that better (not bigger) design in a well-thought-out neighborhood result in successful housing. Design elements such as light to walk toward, ceiling height variety, wall thickness, differentiation of parts, and making less feel like more all come together to create the kind of home that fits our lifestyles – without being mega-sized.

Learn more about Susanka at www.susanka.com.

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Heroes of Sustainability: Vandana Shiva

For Vandana Shiva, it all started with tree-hugging — literally. It was the 1970s, and the Chipko movement, in which women in the Himalayas stood around trees to keep them protected, sparked her passion for ecological sustainability.

Now a well-known environmental activist and philosopher, the Delhi-based Shiva has authored more than 20 books and 500-plus papers in leading scientific and technical journals, becoming a leader in such areas as preserving forests, organizing women, and protecting local biodiversity. She’s fought against genetic engineering and biopiracy (patenting an idea for profit that’s been long used by indigenous cultures), helped grassroots campaigns across the globe, and started an international college for sustainable living.

In 1991, she helped found Navdanya, an organization that promotes biodiversity conservation in India. To date, the group has conserved more than 5,000 crop varieties, including 3,000 types of rice, 95 types of wheat, 150 types of kidney beans, 15 types of millet, and much more.

On Navdanya’s site, Shiva explains: “Over the past three decades I have tried to be the change I want to see. When I found that dominant science and technology served the interests of powerful, I left academics to found the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, a participatory, public interest research organisation. When I found global corporations wanted to patent seeds, crops or life forms, I started Navdanya to protect biodiversity, defend farmers’ rights and promote organic farming.”

Born to Make a Difference
It’s not surprising that Shiva found her way to the forefront of sustainability issues, given her upbringing with a forest conservator father and farmer mother. She told Time magazine that growing up, she always wore clothes made of homespun cotton, but one day when she was 13, she came home from boarding school and asked for a fashionable nylon dress.

“If that is what you want, of course you shall have it,” she recalled her mother telling her. “But remember, your nylon frock will help a rich man buy a bigger car. And the cotton that you wear will buy a poor family at least one meal.” She didn’t get the dress.

She did, however, go on to get a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree at the University of Guelph, and a PhD at the University of Western Ontario, concentrating on physics, quantum theory, and the philosophy of science.

“My Very Essence”
For Shiva, issues of ecological sustainability and social justice are closely linked, and she’s devoted her life to tackling both.

“I’m a woman, born the daughter of a feminist and the granddaughter of a feminist grandfather. I don’t think I could have avoided working on women’s issues,” she said in an interview with Scott London. “I don’t do it as a career or profession; it’s my very essence as a human being. When I find too many puzzles about the way explanations are given about why there is inequality — why people who work the hardest in the world end up being the poorest — I can’t just sit back and not try to understand why the gaps between people are increasing, or why there are so many homeless and hungry people in the world. To me, all these issues — of justice, of ecology, of a scientific inquiry into nature through physics — come from the same source.”

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Heroes of Sustainability: Karl-Henrik Robèrt

Most people can’t claim that an idea they had has earned a royal seal of approval, but then again, Karl-Henrik Robèrt isn’t like most people.

A pre-eminent Swedish cancer scientist, Robèrt saw that the debate on sustainability was divided, with no agreement on what the scientific foundations of sustainability are.

“My epiphany came one day when I was studying cells from cancer patients,” Robèrt told YES! magazine. “It hit me that cells are the unifying unit of all living things. The difference between our cells and the cells of plants are so minor that it’s almost embarrassing; the makeup is almost identical all the way down to the molecular level. … Since politicians and business people also are constituted of cells, I had a feeling that a broad understanding of these cells might help us reach a consensus on the basic requirements for the continuation of life.”

Developing a Framework
That led in 1989 to The Natural Step, a framework based on the laws of thermodynamics for the system conditions of sustainability. Robèrt enlisted the help of a number of other scientists and others to come to a consensus on the guidelines. The four conditions are:

1. nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust;
2. nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances produced as a byproduct of society;
3. nature is not subject to systematically increasing degradation by physical means;
4. people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs.

The Natural Step was approved by the King of Sweden and subsequently sent to households and schools all over the country. It quickly spread outside the bounds of the Scandinavian country, with a number of businesses, towns, and individuals adopting the framework, from the ski resort of Whistler in British Columbia to Nike to Paul Hawken. It’s also been used in a number of different fields, including green building, managing river basins, forestry, energy systems, and more.

“Nobody Wins from Destroying Our Habitat”
Along the way, Robèrt has picked up numerous awards. He won the Green Cross Award for International Leadership in 1999; the Blue Planet Prize (known as the Nobel Prize for ecological sustainability) in 2000, and the Social Responsibility Laureate Medal by the Global Center for Leadership Business Ethics in 2005, to name just a few.

“My vision is that we develop a mainstream understanding that nobody wins from destroying our habitat, and that people will see that you do better in business if you work as though society will become sustainable and as though different cultures will survive, because cultural diversity is also essential,” Robèrt told YES! magazine.

Today, The Natural Step is a global network of non-governmental organizations that lead change toward environmental and social sustainability. Learn more about it here.

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Heroes of Sustainability: Thom Hartmann

No one could accuse Thom Hartmann of not pursuing his interests. Probably best known as a radio talk show host, Hartmann has also co-founded an herbal products company, started international relief programs in a variety of countries, written more than 20 books, worked as a psychotherapist, developed a widely known theory on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and inspired a web movie from Leonardo DiCaprio on the environment.

Hartmann is, to be certain, a man of many talents. As actor DiCaprio has said: “Thom Hartmann seeks out interesting subjects from such disparate outposts of curiosity that you have to wonder whether or not he uncovered them or they selected him.”

However, just because his interests are varied doesn’t mean he’s a jack of all trades and a master of none. Hartmann has more than 2.5 million listeners a week and was named the eighth most important talk show host in America last year by Talkers Magazine, making him the top progressive host on the list. Many of his books have been best-sellers, and he counts legions of influential people as fans of his multidisciplinary work.

Waking Up
His latest book, The Thom Hartmann Reader, covers a wide range of topics, from his opposition to the corporatization of America to solar energy in cloudy Germany to the problem with schools treating children like they’re products on an assembly line. Of the book, fellow Hero of Sustainability John Perkins says: “Thom Hartmann is a literary descendent of Ben Franklin and Tom Paine. His unflinching observations and deep passion inspire us to explore contemporary culture, politics, and economics; challenge us to face the facts of the societies we are creating; and empower us to demand a better world for our children and grandchildren.”

Building a better world for those future generations will take a shift in consciousness, Hartmann says, but he believes we can do it. “I’m very hopeful, and I think that people are waking up,” he said in a video interview with The Nation. “Americans are waking up. They know that their way of life has been destroyed.”

One of our most pressing issues as Hartmann sees it is the corporate capture of government. “It’s our job, not just as progressives, not just as Democrats or greens, but as Americans … to help people realize that this unholy alliance of corporations and government is every bit as dangerous and destructive as the alliance of church and state was perceived to be 200 years ago, and frankly today far more destructive,” he said.

Movement Politics
Although talk radio hosts are known for getting into battles of who can shout the loudest, Hartmann takes a different approach — less shrieking, more calm, reasoned debate. That doesn’t mean, though, that’s he’s not passionate about his beliefs. If we’re going find solutions to the global warming crisis and the lack of clean water worldwide, that’s going to take action to change the way we live, find alternative energy sources, and organize our communities in a different way.

“Every time there’s been a significant change in the history of America, it’s been a result of movement politics — local movements, local people,” Hartmann said. “Get active in the political process, show up, volunteer … run for political office or support somebody who is, and get out there and get active. Really, the bottom line: Tag, you’re it.”

For more information on Hartmann, visit www.thomhartmann.com.

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Heroes of Sustainability: Rachel Carson

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo

There is perhaps no book that’s made a greater impact on the environmental movement than Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Published in 1962, the groundbreaking work brought to the forefront of American public consciousness the impact of pesticides on the earth, making the New York Times best-seller list for more than 80 weeks. A decade after the book was published (and due to its influence), DDT was banned in the U.S.

Hard at Work
Who was the woman who wrote a book that spurred such action? Carson was born in 1907 and grew up in rural Springdale, Pennsylvania, where she developed a love of nature and reading from a young age. At the Pennsylvania College for Women, she first studied English but then changed her major to biology, and went on to earn a master’s at Johns Hopkins University in zoology. After the death of her father and needing to contribute to the family income, Carson took on a job that melded her two loves of science and writing, penning weekly radio scripts for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries that were intended to get the public interested in aquatic life and the bureau’s work.

From there, she went on to become only the second woman hired full-time for a professional position by the bureau, and in her role, she wrote pamphlets and other educational materials for the public. On the side, she contributed articles to newspapers and magazines, with an Atlantic Monthly piece eventually turning into her first book, Under the Sea-Wind. It was well reviewed and today is considered one of the classics in nature writing.

Her next book, The Sea Around Us, garnered the financial security she needed, along with much recognition and a slew of awards. It was turned into a documentary that won an Oscar, although Carson was never happy with the script that was written for the project. She followed up her enormously successful sophomore effort with a third book about the sea, this one titled The Edge of the Sea. It was also quite popular, and completed her look at the oceans from deep under to the shores.

The Environmental Movement
The inspiration behind the work that would come to most define her to popular audiences, Silent Spring, started with a letter her friend published in The Boston Herald, about birds dying on her property because of the DDT sprayed to get rid of mosquitoes. After becoming aware of this, Carson largely focused her scientific research efforts on pesticides, spending the rest of her career examining and writing about their effects.

Silent Spring came as a cry in the wilderness, a deeply felt, thoroughly researched, and brilliantly written argument that changed the course of history,” wrote Al Gore in an introduction to the book’s 25th-anniversary edition. “Without this book, the environmental movement might have been long delayed or never have developed at all.”

Carson died of cancer less than two years after Silent Spring was published, and as such, never fully took in the legacy she left behind. Jimmy Carter awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously, and countless academics and citizens alike were influenced by her work.

In Silent Spring, Carson wrote: “We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”

For more information on Carson, visit www.rachelcarson.org.

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Heroes of Sustainability: Edward Abbey

Many environmentalists have sterling reputations: They’ve used peaceful tactics to preserve nature, written beautiful prose to celebrate it, and inspired others to defend it. Edward Abbey is not one of those environmentalists.

Sure, he fiercely loved nature, wrote awe-inspiring accounts of it, and garnered a huge following — but he also threw beer cans out car windows, penned stories about blowing up dams, and married five times, earning quite the reputation as a womanizer.

He was one-of-a-kind, a conservationist of his own making, described by The American Spectator contributor Bill Croke as “equal parts Henry David Thoreau and John Muir, with an added dash of Mikhail Bakunin.”

Cactus Ed
The Pennsylvania native was born to a schoolteacher mother who played the organ in church, and a farmer father who was a socialist, an anarchist, and an atheist. Shortly before Abbey’s 18th birthday in the mid-1940s, when he would face the draft, he set out to explore the American West, getting there through a mix of hitchhiking, walking, freight train hopping, and bus riding. When he saw the desert landscape of the Four Corners (where New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah meet), he’d found his home.

After returning from World War II, graduating from the University of New Mexico (his master’s thesis topic: “Anarchism and the Morality of Violence”), and working as a park ranger, he rose to prominence with the 1968 publication of Desert Solitaire, a nonfiction book melding nature writing, philosophy, and political observations about the management of national parks. In it, he wrote:

“Beyond the side canyon the walls rise again, slick and monolithic, in color a blend of pink, buff, yellow, orange, overlaid in part with a glaze of ‘desert varnish’ (iron oxide) or streaked in certain places with vertical draperies of black organic stains, the residue from plant life beyond the rim and from the hanging gardens that flourish in the deep grottoes high on the walls. Some of those alcoves are like great amphitheatres, large as the Hollywood Bowl, big enough for God’s own symphony orchestra.”

Seven years later, he followed that book with one even more popular, The Monkey Wrench Gang. A novel centered around a group of anarchic environmentalists who conspire to blow up Glen Canyon Dam and sabotage builders’ efforts to develop in the desert, it inspired the founding of Earth First!, a radical green group.

Solace in the Desert
Abbey believed that humans would never know true freedom until they spent some time in wild, unexplored lands, and so he spent his life doing — and writing about — just that.

“Edward Abbey is one of our foremost Western essayists and novelists,” read an article in The Denver Post. “A militant conservationist, he has attracted a large following — not only within the ranks of Sierra Club enthusiasts and dedicated backpackers, but also among armchair appreciators of good writing. What always made his work doubly interesting is the sense of a true maverick spirit at large, within it — a kind of spirit not imitable, limited only to the highest class of literary outlaws.”

When he died in 1989, friends and family fulfilled Abbey’s burial wish by taking his body in a sleeping bag in the back of a pickup truck and laying him to rest in the wilderness as soon as possible, without embalming fluid or a casket (or regard for the law).

“I want my body to help fertilize the growth of a cactus or cliff rose or sagebrush or tree,” he wrote. Somewhere in the dusty Arizona desert, it’s doing just that.

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Heroes of Sustainability: Christopher Swain

Christopher Swain. Photo by Carrie Branovan.

The world is watching this week as the best swimmers go for the gold, but there’s a significant swimmer they won’t see: Christopher Swain.

He isn’t the fastest — in fact, he’s not that fast at all — but he is just as dedicated to his cause as Olympians are to pursuing their sports.

His first monumental swim came in 2003, when he became the first person to swim the length of the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River, all 1,243 miles of it. While a good workout was clearly a byproduct of the long swim, the purpose was to raise awareness about the people and ecosystems that have been disrupted in the Columbia River Basin. A documentary, Source to Sea: The Columbia River Swim, was produced about the effort, and it went on to win the Environmental Activism and Social Justice Award at the EarthVision Film Festival, and the Most Inspiring Adventure Film Award at the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival.

“I seek to plead the Columbia’s case,” Swain told Smokebox.net. “I chose swimming because I didn’t want to put anything between me and the water. Advocating for the River required my getting wet. When I swim, I offer myself to the river somehow. In the end then, I suppose I answer to the Columbia.”

Just Keep Swimming
He didn’t stop his swimming career there. A year later, he took on the 315-mile Hudson River in New York, calling for a river with drinkable water and becoming the subject of another documentary, this one called Swim for the River. Since then, he’s taken on Lake Champlain, the Charles River near Boston, and the Mystic River in Massachusetts.

Back on land, Swain — who grew up on the water and sailed competitively as a youngster — has talked to more than 60,000 students about clean water, produced a major event for the United Nations Water Decade at U.N. Headquarters, and was chosen as a Person of the Week on ABC World News Tonight.

According to his website, www.swimforcleanwater.org, he’s “survived collisions with boats, 12-foot waves, lightning storms, class IV+ rapids, toxic blue-green algae, Lamprey Eel attacks, and water contaminated with everything from human waste to nuclear waste.” And still, he pushed on, determined to do whatever he could to ensure that future generations would have clean, drinkable, swimmable water.

If commitment to a good cause were an Olympic sport, Swain might just find himself on the podium.

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Heroes of Sustainability: Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry. Photo by Jim Fothergill.

“Once our personal connection to what is wrong becomes clear, then we have to choose: we can go on as before, recognizing our dishonesty and living with it the best we can, or we can begin the effort to change the way we think and live.” — Wendell Berry

Prolific writer and farmer Wendell Berry has spent his life sticking close to his roots. That doesn’t mean the Kentucky-based scholar has never gone out and experienced anything new — he studied at Stanford University in California, taught at New York University, and traveled to Italy and France as part of a fellowship.

“In high school, my teachers were telling me you can’t amount to anything and stay where you’re from,” he told Smithsonian magazine. “So when I left here, I assumed I would be an academic wanderer perhaps, that I’d be going with my ‘talent’ from one university to another so I could amount to something. When I decided to come back here, a lot of people I respected thought I was deliberately achieving my ruin.”

A Sense of Place
Instead, the Kentucky native was returning to the place where his “imagination took root,” taking up the tradition of farming that had been in his family for at least five generations.

Doing so was anything but the achievement of his ruin. A staunch advocate for the land, Berry practices what he preaches, living on a 125-acre homestead that produces most of the things he needs to eat. A team of horses plows the land instead of a modern tractor.

In addition to producing sustenance for his family, he’s produced an incredible number of written works — more than 50 novels, short story collections, poetry chapbooks, and volumes of essays in all. Much of his writing has focused on issues of sustainability and agrarian values, weaving in ideas of connection to place, local economies, and the miracle and interconnectedness of life.

Championing Causes
Although Berry is well into his 70s now, that hasn’t slowed down his activism. Earlier this year, he spent a weekend locked in the Kentucky governor’s office with others from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth in an effort to stop mountaintop removal coal mining. In late 2009, he protested the construction of a coal-burning power plant in Clark County, Kentucky, a project that was successfully canceled earlier this year. Also in 2009, he teamed up with The Land Institute’s Wes Jackson (another Hero of Sustainability) to write an op-ed for The New York Times calling for a farm bill that addresses “the problems of soil loss and degradation, toxic pollution, fossil-fuel dependency and the destruction of rural communities.”

While he’s a champion for the environment, he has criticism for that movement, too, given how some separate wilderness from farmland. “My experience over the last 25 years has been that not many people speak, or can think, from the point of view of the land,” he told Smithsonian. “As soon as the conversation shifts from issues actually affecting the land to ‘the environment,’ then you’re done for. People think of it as something different from themselves, and of course it isn’t.”

With simple yet beautiful prose and commonsense ideas, Berry has ideas worth taking heed of — and yet he’s still working to be heard. As writer Rod Dreher said in The American Conservative, Berry’s “unshakable devotion to the land, to localism, and to the dignity of traditional life makes him both a great American and, to the disgrace of our age, a prophet without honor in his native land.”

To learn more about Berry’s works, visit www.wendellberrybooks.com.

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Heroes of Sustainability: Michael Braungart

Michael Braungart. Photo by Enith Stenhuys.

“Think about this — today the indoors air quality in most buildings is very poor, yet the insulation techniques keep improving, so by not looking at the big picture we’re effectively trapping ourselves in polluted air. My conclusion is that if you do something wrong, don’t make it perfect, otherwise you’re just making something that’s perfectly wrong.”
– Michael Braungart

Michael Braungart is driven by two big questions: How can mankind really integrate itself into life on earth? How can people be not just less harmful, but rather useful?

Throughout his career, the German chemist has strived to answer these questions, and in the process, has come up with some revolutionary ideas — including ones that have certainly raised a few eyebrows.

In design magazine Abitare, he wrote: “But I can tell you, sustainability is boring. It is just the minimum. Like when you were asked: ‘How is your relationship with your girlfriend?’ What do you say? Sustainable? I’d say: ‘I am so sorry for you.’ Design is the complete opposite of sustainability. We would still live on trees if we were sustainable. Sustainability just keeps the same things over and over again. Instead we should celebrate being human beings and our creativity, which is far more important than sustainability.”

A Real Shift
Elevating design to something that’s more than just the bare minimum is something he delves deeper into in the book he co-wrote with American architect William McDonough, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. The Cradle the Cradle philosophy is all about looking at the design of something from the beginning to end of its life span, eliminating the concept of “waste,” as everything can be reused perpetually. Instead of minimization, Braungart envisions a design world of optimization.

“Most of the time products that are labeled carbon neutral absolutely are not,” he said at EcoBuild 2010 in London. “We have to stop thinking we can protect the environment by destroying less. Carbon neutral is only achievable through nonexistence, hence it’s not something to aspire to — what we need to aim for is carbon positive, like trees. And that calls for a real shift.”

Spreading the Word
In Braungart’s earlier days, he was a Greenpeace activist who once lived in a tree as a form of protest. He went on to lead the formation of the Chemistry Section of Greenpeace International, and in 1987, he founded the EPEA Umweltforschung in Hamburg, which works with clients around the world to institute Cradle to Cradle principles. He is a professor of process engineering at the University of Applied Sciences in Suderburg and the scientific manager of the Hamburg Environmental Institute, a nonprofit research center that ranks the quality of environmentally sound products in the chemical industry. He is also co-founder of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC), a global sustainability consulting and product certification firm based in Virginia.

Although Braungart’s involved in a variety of activities, they all have one overarching goal: to promote the idea that we can do more than just reduce our negative environmental impact — we can make a better one.

For more information about Braungart, visit www.braungart.com/index_EN.html.

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