No Impact Man Vs. Cradle-to-Cradle Man.

Bruce Nussbaum

Hair-shirt sustainability Vs. Go-Go Growth Sustainability. We now have two approaches to sustainability--live light on the land and cut back consumption vs. live like the crazy consumer that you are but use different chemistry that recycles, reuses and reinvents stuff. Colin Beavan--No Impact Man, meet Bill McDonough, Cradle-to-Cradle Man.

Which is the right approach to sustainability? Gawker and lots of other folks in the blogosphere are flaming the heck out of No Impact Man for his earnestness and for what many see as his hypocrisy. The blog and the no carbon impact lifestyle are, in the end, for a book that will probably be a best-seller and cost the lives of thousands of trees. Whatever the motivation, No Impact Man does plug into a deep environment tradition of living light on the land that is real and authentic. Cutting back, leaving a small imprint is one way to go in a world warming up fast. The fly-fishing Aldo Leopold in his iconic Sand County Almanac made the case for people caring about the land.

The other way to go is c-to-c, cradle to cradle. Bill McDonough says it best this way:

"Imagine a world in which all the things we make, use, and consume provide nutrition for nature and industry—a world in which growth is good and human activity generates a delightful, restorative ecological footprint.

"While this may seem like heresy to many in the world of sustainable development, the destructive qualities of today’s cradle-to-grave industrial system can be seen as the result of a fundamental design problem, not the inevitable outcome of consumption and economic activity. Indeed, good design—principled design based on the laws of nature—can transform the making and consumption of things into a regenerative force.

C-to-C is all about materials--using very different materials to make things that allow us to sustain high economic growth without piling up waste.

Another way to look at it is this:
Today--Innovation = Waste.
Tomorrow--Innovation = Resources.

I live in both camps, like many people. I do like my Yves Behar-designed watch (which does allow me to easily and cheaply replace the battery, unlike the iPod). But I also believe in living lightly on the land, with no McMansion or an SUVs.

How about a quick poll? Are you a NIP? No Impact Person?

Are you a C-to-C Person?

This, actually, is a very important discussion for designers and managers alike.