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General information about Cradle to Cradle

Cradle to Cradle (C2C) is a holistic approach to environmental, resource and climate protection that takes into account ecological, economic and social issues. C2C sees humans as potential beneficials. Instead of making things a little less bad, we want to make a positive contribution to us humans and our environment. Why we need this shift in thinking is described in the C2C school of thought. The C2C design concept describes how we need to rethink and redesign all products and processes to become beneficial. The core of this is the selection of suitable and healthy materials in the design of products that can circulate eternally in the biological or technical cycle. The prerequisite for a C2C world is the exclusive use of renewable energy, the recycling of water and compliance with social standards.

All products must be designed and manufactured to circulate in at least one of these two loops. In this way, resources no longer become waste but, after their current use, become nutrients again for something new. Consumer goods whose materials wear out – such as tires that are worn down or textile fibers that are outgrown – must be 100% biodegradable so that they can circulate in the biological cycle. Raw materials from used products must be taken back and preserved in the same quality so that they become part of the technical cycle. You can find out more about the two circuits here.

For materials to circulate in cycles, they must not contain harmful or toxic substances and must be suitable for the specific use of the product. For example, a plastic can be a suitable material for the technical cycle if it does not contain any pollutants and can be recycled again and again in the same quality. However, a plastic is only suitable for the biological cycle if it is completely biodegradable.

What is now called the circular economy is, in principle, a form of waste management. A product has reached the end of its life cycle and we ask ourselves: What can we still do with the components of the product so that it does not completely become waste? How can we recycle the product or components of it? The problem with this is that many products are designed in such a way that they are not suitable for true recycling. For example, because different materials are bonded together in such a way that they can no longer be separated from each other without leaving residue. Cradle to Cradle therefore starts with the design of products and considers the entire life cycle. When we select and process materials for products in such a way that they can be reused again and again, we close loops completely.

Cradle to grave, meaning “from beginning to end”. The term describes our current linear economy: Materials/raw materials are extracted and built into our products with mostly short-sighted design. In the end, most of them end up in landfills or even in waste incineration plants and are thus permanently withdrawn from use. Both the extraction of the materials and their disposal cause long-term damage to the environment and to us humans.

Cradle to Cradle (also abbreviated to C2C) is an approach to a continuous and consistent circular economy. It consists of the school of thought and the design concept. The C2C school of thought aims to provide a fundamentally new view of the world and our human actions. It does not conceive of humans as pests, but as beneficial organisms on earth that can leave a positive footprint. The design concept states that appropriate usage scenarios must be defined for each product and service. Only then can healthy and suitable materials be selected to circulate continuously in biological and technical cycles.

The C2C school of thought describes why we need to completely rethink how to solve environmental, resource and climate problems equally and simultaneously. The C2C design concept describes how Cradle to Cradle is implemented in practice and what the approach means for the design and manufacture of products.

>> more about the school of thought
>> more about the design concept

In common use of language, recycling is understood as the reuse of waste products or their materials. In the German Closed Substance Cycle Waste Management Act recycling is being defined as “a recovery operation by which waste is reprocessed into products, materials, or substances either for the original purpose or for other purposes; it includes the reprocessing of organic materials but does not include energy recovery or reprocessing into materials intended for use as fuel or for backfilling.”

In practice, the recycling implemented today is usually “downcycling”. This means that technical quality is lost in the recycling process of the materials.

For example, old plastic bottles become fleece sweaters or truck tarps become bags. This process is not reversible because, for example, a fleece sweater cannot be turned back into PET bottles. On the contrary, each additional supposed recycling step (e.g. from fleece sweater to cleaning rag) reduces the quality of the starting material. As a result, raw materials inevitably become waste at some point.

Recycling according to the cradle to cradle principle, on the other hand, aims to ensure that all materials (raw and secondary materials) remain of consistent quality, even after multiple reuse. Already in the design and manufacturing process, consideration is given to how the materials used can become a resource again for the next product after it has been used. In this way, products can be broken down into single-variety starting materials after use and recycled.

Bioplastics are considered a sustainable alternative to conventional plastics. A distinction is made between biodegradable plastics and biobased plastics. When plastics are partly made from renewable raw materials such as sugar cane or wheat, they are referred to as bio-based plastics. However, they are not automatically biodegradable. With biodegradable plastics, on the other hand, the starting material does not matter; they just have to be biodegradable, as the name suggests.

The term “negative footprint” is widely used, especially as a marketing tool. Historically, it aims to place responsibility for climate and resource protection with the individual.

But on the one hand, politics and business can and must also act as much greater levers through framework conditions and future-proof innovations. Second, reducing a negative impact toward neutrality is the wrong goal – every living thing on the planet emits emissions. And we have already done too much irreversible damage for this goal to be enough to create a livable future.

Instead, all areas of society must contribute to having the greatest possible positive economic, ecological and social impact. This only works if we prioritize eco-effectiveness over eco-efficiency.

If there are any other terms that are unclear to you, take a look at our lexicon.

A literature list on C2C is currently in progress. As soon as we have completed it, we will link it here.

C2C NGO

We want Cradle to Cradle to be a matter of course. We are committed to this through educational work and by networking politics, business, science, culture and civil society. If you want to learn more about our goals and how we achieve them, check out Vision and Mission.

The NGO was founded in 2012. The office has been in existence since 2014, and since September 2019, the head office has been at C2C LAB in Berlin.

We are happy to support you if you need information about Cradle to Cradle for a scientific paper. Just send us an email to info[at]c2c.ngo and we will see together how we can help you.

Cradle to Cradle NGO is financed primarily by donations and sponsorship contributions. You want to support us and C2C too? Here you can find out how.

The work of our NGO is regularly supported by interns. You can find all open internship positions in our job offers.

If you are interested in working for us but can’t find a suitable advertised position, please apply via our application form.

The work of our NGO is regularly supported by people on voluntary ecological year or federal voluntary service. You can find all open positions in our job offers.

We are a registered association. Here you can find our statutes.

Yes, Cradle to Cradle NGO pursues exclusively and directly charitable purposes.

The staff of the Cradle to Cradle NGO is based in the C2C LAB office in Berlin. The work of the NGO is organized by the voluntary board of directors. In addition, we have an advisory board with which the board meets twice a year for strategy consultation and knowledge transfer. Here you can find more information about the structure and organization of the NGO.

Michael Braungart is the father of our managing director Nora Sophie Griefahn. He is a member of the Cradle to Cradle NGO Advisory Board and has no operational role.

We regularly organize events, either on our own or in cooperation with partners as well as other organizations. Our International C2C Congress takes place on a regular basis. We also host the C2C Academy for our volunteers. For specialist audiences, we offer expert forums and the C2C Summit, among other events. Since spring 2020, we have also been regularly inviting guests to our digital LAB Talks.

C2C products and C2C certification

Yes, there are already many products from different industries that have been inspired by Cradle to Cradle or have C2C certification. Check out the Products Innovation Institute site for a list of C2C-certified products.

There are a number of online stores that offer C2C products for sale. For example, Memo or Avocadostore, which have a special C2C search filter, as well as newnormal.eco. In addition, other projects are being planned, such as the C2C online store Cradlelution.

No. We are not responsible for the certification of products, but the San Francisco-based “Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute” (C2C PII). If you need guidance in the certification process for your product, you can contact one of the C2C PII approved assessors.

If you want to certify your product according to Cradle to Cradle, you can contact an assessor for a consultation. The certification itself is carried out by the Products Innovation Institute.

C2C LAB

The C2C LAB is our head office, but at the same time also an educational center and real laboratory to make Cradle to Cradle tangible in terms of content and practice. The C2C LAB is a commercial space in an East Berlin prefab building that has been renovated according to C2C, where we bring Cradle to Cradle to life.

Of course, we would like to present the C2C LAB to the public. That’s why we offer LAB tours on a regular basis. Just get in touch at info[at]c2c.ngo.

Yes, it is possible to book our LAB for events. Just write an email to and we can clarify all the details.

C2C Network Cities & Municipalities

Cities and municipalities, companies and organizations (e.g. foundations, associations, NGOs or research institutions) that want to promote C2C at the municipal level. You can find all the important info on the network’s website.

Click here to register for the network. If you have any questions, Juliane Thiele, Community Development Officer, is the right person to contact (juliane.thiele[at]c2c.ngo).

The network offers an exchange platform, regular networking events and access to information material and assistance. We also involve members in Cradle to Cradle NGO events and offer discounts on all C2C formats (e.g. C2C Congress, workshops, expert forums).

C2C in companies

If you need initial input for possible C2C projects, we can help you. Here you can find out more about what we can do together for Cradle to Cradle. If your company would like to get involved with Cradle to Cradle on a local level, you can become a member of our C2C Regions network. In addition, you can have your products certified according to C2C, please contact the Products Innovation Institute or one of the assessors recognized by the PII.

We are very pleased when companies are interested in a partnership with us and want to support us. For example, your company can become an Impact Partner of the NGO, a product partner in the C2C LAB or a member of the C2C Regions network. You can find more information here. In addition, we are always happy to hear from people, service providers and other companies who give us an NGO discount.

We are happy to help initiate C2C projects in companies or organizations. Our expertise lies in the mindchange and creative process around the question of what role Cradle to Cradle can play in your sustainability strategy. We are happy to discuss further possibilities for strategic cooperation – Wolter Student (wolter.student[at]c2c.ngo), member of the management board, is the right contact person for this.

Press & Public Relations

You are welcome to use our logo, graphics, and images explaining Cradle to Cradle for editorial and non-commercial purposes. To do so, send us a request to press[at]c2c.ngo.

Here you can download all issues of the magazine. You can find printed copies at our C2C LAB or at our events.

For all press inquiries, please contact our press officer Isabel Gomez at press[at]c2c.ngo.

If you would like to receive monthly updates on our work, you can sign up for our C2C NGO News here.

Our press officer Isabel Gomez is the right contact for this at press[at]c2c.ngo.

Please send us a request via our contact form or an email to info[at]c2c.ngo describing the details of the event.

To do so, please send us a request via our contact form or an email to info[at]c2c.ngo, describing the details of the event, etc.

C2C Volunteer/get active

We welcome anyone who would like to volunteer with us. As an active member you get access to our network and have a whole range of benefits. Our volunteers are involved in regional groups and alliances. If that’s not for you, find further information here.

You can become a sponsor and support us financially with a monthly or annual contribution. Also, as a donation-based NGO, we are always happy to receive donations that make our work possible. You can find a few more ideas here.

This allows you to test for 6 months, free of charge, whether volunteering with us is right for you. You get access to our internal network and can network there with active people nationwide and participate in projects. After 6 months we will come back to you and ask if you want to stay active with us.

If there is no C2C regional group in your region yet, we would of course be very happy if you become active. To do so, please contact our Volunteer Manager Gentry Doane (gentry.doane[at]c2c.ngo).

We have an individual membership fee, which means you can choose the amount you would like to support our work with. We recommend a monthly contribution of at least 10 €.

Alliances are nationwide issue-specific groups that advance Cradle to Cradle in their respective areas.

Your question was not answered? Then write to info[at]c2c.ngo.