What is Cradle to Cradle Certification? And Why Does it Matter for Your Next Remodel?

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What is cradle to cradle? And why does it matter for your next home remodel?
Cradle to Cradle certification is, “the global standard for products that are safe, circular and responsibly made.” The term and principals were coined by William McDonough, the leader of sustainable design development and the leader of the Cradle to Cradle design movement. 

Cradle to Cradle is also known as C2C, or regenerative design. 

Individuals who design C2C products use a biomimetic approach. Biomimetic means that the practice mirrors, or imitates nature’s cycling of resources. When someone is finished with a regenerative design product, the materials return to the earth, or they’re upcycled into something new. 

Upcycled and recycled are not synonymous. Recycled can include upcycled or downcycled products. Downcycled products are either deteriorating or less valuable post recycling. 

A great example of this is plastic, which is only recyclable once or twice before it can no longer hold its structure. Each time plastic is recycled, it becomes downcycled into less transparent, weaker plastic. Conversely, when you upcycle a product or material, it doesn’t lose any of its value or benefits. 

In regenerative design, every resource becomes something new. This practice celebrates diversity, minimizes negative influence, and leaves a positive ecological footprint.

Two Types of C2C Cycles: Biological Cycle and Technical Cycle

In the biological cycle, materials and products become compostable or can make new products. No waste is created. A good example of this in the interior design industry is 100% cotton drapery becoming compost once you are finished using them.

In a technical cycle, materials are optimized during the design process. When you’re finished with the product, you’re able to disassemble, sort, and restore each component for upcycling. Think of this as taking down a building, piece by piece, and using the pieces to build something new.

Cradle to Cradle vs. Cradle to Grave

There’s one big difference between Cradle to Cradle and Cradle to Grave. One creates waste, and the other one doesn’t. 

A product made with a Cradle to Grave life cycle will become waste when you’re finished with it. This life cycle has a beginning, middle and end. 

When you’re finished using a C2C product, there is no waste. Rather, the entire item, or its parts is reusable or becomes something else. This product life cycle is not linear, but rather a circle that continues to regenerate itself.

Cradle to cradle products are products that create no waste when you're finished using them.

The Perks of Cradle to Cradle Design

Cradle to Cradle principles use design and manufacturing practices that take into consideration the next use for the product, not just the current use. These products and materials are intended to be used for generations. The practice is even bigger than one product, as it’s about healthy materials and a circular economy. 

Circular economies can eliminate waste, circulate products and materials, and regenerate nature. In effect, circular economies prevent climate change and biodiversity loss, as well as reduce waste and pollution. 

One of the main benefits of C2C Design and Certification is that it slows global warming and:

  • Slows the use of Earth’s resources via recycling. 
  • Preserves clean drinking water and fresh air
  • Increases renewable technologies.
  • Ensures only non-harmful materials and substances are in our products. 
  • Promotes social fairness, improves human rights, workers’ rights, and animal welfare.
  • Encourages businesses to seek out community steward projects to better the communities they are a part of. 

How are C2C certifications ranked?

There are 5 different criteria considered for C2C certification. 

  1. Material health: Are the materials or ingredients safe for humans and the environment? 
  2. Product circularity: Does it enable a circular economy through regenerative products and process design? 
  3. Social fairness: Are human rights respected, and does production contribute to an equitable society? 
  4. Water and soil stewardship: Does this product safeguard water and soils?
  5. Clean air and climate protection: Is air quality protected, renewable energy promoted, and are harmful emissions reduced? 

When seeking accreditation, makers can achieve C2C scores from bronze to platinum. Bronze is the lowest ranking and platinum is the highest ranking. Your lowest ranking in any of the above criteria will determine your product’s overall ranking. 

C2C is a part of LEED certifications and BREEAM certifications.

Sustainable design decisions are as beautiful as they are practical.

How does a business get certified?

On the C2C website, they have three simple steps to receiving certification, as follows. 

  • Determine if the product is eligible for certification. If an organization doesn’t know how to make their products sustainable they’ll often look to sustainability consultants to assist them. 
  • Select a Cradle to Cradle certification assessment body for testing, analysis, and evaluation of your product. Next, the organization will contact C2C to start the steps for certification. 
  • Receive certification. If the product is able to pass the testing, analysis, and evaluation stage, it will then receive its certification. 

After that, all businesses must report their progress and recertify every two years. It’s important that organizations like Cradle to Cradle continuously test to uphold their standards.

What are some C2C Certified businesses?

Designtex Climatex (Gold): This organization designs and manufactures, “applied materials for the built environment.” Their very first products were C2C certified. Now they continue to uphold high sustainability standards. Most of their products are for businesses rather than consumers. 

Icestone Countertops (Silver): Icestone’s counters are made of recycled glass and quartz aggregates without chemical binders. All their products are made in the United States (making for a smaller carbon footprint when shipping!) 

Mosa Global Collection Wall and Floor Tiles (Gold): Almost every kind of Mosa tile is C2C certified gold. They’re also ISO 14001 certified and registered in various environmental databases. Their facilities are LEED and BREEAM certified. 

Patcraft (Gold): Patcraft recently received their first C2C Gold collection. This carpet is carbon neutral, fully recyclable, and stunning in any space.  

Interface (Silver): Interface also creates carpet tiles that push the boundary of design with a high focus on sustainability.  

Shaw (Multiple Certifications): Shaw creates commercial and residential flooring. Since 1996, almost 90% of their products are certified C2C.

Worthwhile sustainable investments for your home.

Consider Cradle to Cradle Certified Products on Your Next Home Build or Remodel

There’s a lot of thought that goes into a home design. You’ll want a layout that makes sense for your family, colors that evoke specific moods when you’re in each room, and light, space, and texture to create dimension throughout your home. 

If you’re going to put this much thought into your own home, why wouldn’t you want to fill it with products that have the same amount of thought put into their design?

C2C certification is an investment in your perfect home and lifestyle. Both in the sense of the walls you live within, and the world you explore. It is a worthwhile investment to consider which products will keep your family and society safer. 

Plus, picking a product with a C2C certification gives the company the opportunity to invest in bettering their products and reaching higher certifications. In a way, you’re upcycling your money.

You don’t have to do all the legwork, design, and planning on your own. Spark Interiors helps our clients make meaningful design choices, and are happy to seek out Cradle to Cradle Certification, or any other certification important to you. 

Schedule a call to get started on your next project. 


Learn more about important sustainability standards when it comes to home building, and search our blog for product deep dives like wool, wood, and more!

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