Glimpses of the Green World

November 30, 1999

Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart make a strong case for replacing eco-efficiency with eco-effectiveness by placing the focus where it belongs - intelligent, informed design.

"Plainly put, eco-efficiency aspires to make the old, destructive system less so. But its goals, however admirable, are fatally limited..."

To put their ideas to the test, they created a fabric so free of toxics you can eat it.

...the project team considered more than 8,000 chemicals used in the textile industry and eliminated 7,962. The fabric -- in fact, an entire line of fabrics -- was created using only thirty-eight chemicals.

The director of the mill told a surprising story after the fabrics were in production. When regulators came by to test the effluent, they thought their instruments were broken. After testing the influent as well, they realized that the equipment was fine -- the water coming out of the factory was as clean as the water going in. The manufacturing process itself was filtering the water. The new design not only bypassed the traditional three-R [reduce, reuse, recycle] responses to environmental problems but also eliminated the need for regulation.

Read on.