William McDonough - Father of the Circular Economy and Cradle-to-Cradle Design

William McDonough - Father of the Circular Economy and Cradle-to-Cradle Design

William McDonough is one of the most influential sustainability thought-leaders and practitioners in the world.

McDonough joins the Sustainable Nation Podcast to discuss:

  • Cradle-to-Cradle design principles and examples of the Cradle-to-Cradle work he is leading.

  • Cradle-to-Cradle in the apparel industry and Fashion for Good.

  • Moving beyond sustainability to a regenerative and restorative future.

  • A new language for carbon.

  • Advice for sustainability professionals.

McDonough's Final Five Questions:

What is one piece of advice you would give other sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?

I would say one would be to pull back on the of resources and pull into the notion of relationships. So if we're talking about is economic resources or economic capital, we forget society and we forgot the environment. For sustainability people, we think about economic and social and environmental things, but as long as we keep calling it "resources" or "natural capital" or "social capital" or "human resources", we end up seeing everything as a fungible asset that we can apply statistical significance. And if we do that, we find ourselves with a kind of artificial intelligence based on statistical significance. Not a bad thing per se, but I wonder if we can bring back the whole notion of natural intelligence and do the things we know are right. Not just the things we know are less or more.

What are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability and regenerative development?

All the building's I'm designing and the products I'm designing, the systems we're designing and whatever I'm working on at the moment. We're just real busy and excited about it. That's my favorite part of it. Just doing the work, building the buildings, making the products and designing the package. It's fun.

Absolutely. I agree. What is one book you would recommend sustainability professionals read?

Cradle to Cradle

What are some of your favorite resources or tools that really help you in the work that you do? Could be anything from websites or associations, technology, software, programs, guidebooks, any type of tools.

Well, again, if a tool is something that we can use to everyone's benefit, then in a kind of a strange way, the things that I rely on the most, to make it possible for me to do what I do, are actually other people. And I don't see them as tools, as much as relationships. I don't see them as much as being resources as being people who I can rely on in a sense to be transparent, to be truthful and to be full of good ideas. I think that's the key thing, is the sharing of ideas, and that is hard to do. So I think being connected to people is the privilege that I've had for so long that I have a lot of people, and when I have an idea, I can go see another person and idea to go with it.

And finally, where can our listeners go to learn more about you and your work?

I think hopefully McDonough.com will evolve into something useful for people. It is showing the sort of diversity of the things we do. If it is possible, therefore it exists. That's the world I live in, cause I guess I'm a professional visionary in a certain way. And so my job is to look out into the future, and then speak of the future perfect in the present tense. So I try to make examples that are hopefully helpful to people as they try to imagine it themselves and try to make it exist. So therefore it is possible for other people. So I'd say look at the work, read the books.