The Upcycle

Michael Braungart, William McDonough

The Upcycle



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In this book, William McDonough and Michael Braungart combine the principles of the circular economy with good systemic design, in order to guide humanity towards a future in which the need for sustainable living does not have to conflict with the pursuit of collective wealth. Their take on ecological thinking provides insight into how we should be addressing the ongoing environmental crisis.

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Analysis and key concepts


We need new models of interaction between humans and ecosystems


Defining the concepts of the technosphere and the biosphere allows us to find more effective designs for recycling materials


Ecological thinking sees humanity, technology, and ecosystems as a single entity called nature


Nature is a form of capital that we need to use wisely


When we consider the impact of each component of a product, it helps create systems with a positive impact


What is the future of sustainable energy sources?


More effective land management is one of the most difficult challenges of the near future


Upcycling allows us to strive for a future of hope, imagination, and growth


Everything natural demands interconnection




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Create a start-up.
  • Explore the main issues surrounding sustainability in the business world.
  • Plan and design business innovation.
  • Analyse the relationship between recycling models and consumers.
  • Apply a systemic design approach across all sectors to help them deal with the climate crisis.

Michael Braungart is a German chemist who is committed to finding solutions for the effective management of the earth’s resources. The Hannover Principles, which was a publication commissioned by the city of Hannover for ‘The World’s Fair’ of Expo 2000, and two manifestos, Cradle to Cradle, and The Upcycling, were co-authored with architect William McDonough, and present the most innovative solutions proposed by the circular economy to face the challenges of sustainable development.

William McDonough is an American architect who specialises in designing sustainable materials, systems, and buildings. He has worked as a consultant to the White House and also launched the Make It Right programme with Brad Pitt in 2008 for residential reconstruction following Hurricane Katrina. Together with Michael Braungart, he has written two manifestos of ecological thinking: Cradle to Cradle and The Upcycling, and The Hannover Principles, a publication commissioned by the city of Hannover for ‘The World’s Fair’ of Expo 2000.

Publishing house:

North Point Press