Design for the Planet e C2C

Giuliana Zoppis, presidente della nostra Associazione, è stata dal 5 al 7 marzo ad Addis Abeba come ambasciatrice del design italiano per la seconda edizione dell’Italian Design Day 2018, indetto dal Ministero degli esteri, il Ministero della cultura e del turismo, gli Istituti Italiani di cultura e la Triennale di Milano. Il tema è stato scelto quest’anno da Paola Antonelli, curatrice italiana del Moma di New York per l’architettura e il design: “Broken Nature – Design Takes on Human Survival”, che sarà anche il titolo della XXII Esposizione internazionale alla Triennale di Milano (dal 1 marzo al 1 settembre 2019).



Broken Nature chiede a tutti di farsi carico del debito contratto nei confronti degli ecosistemi danneggiati. Il design, connettivo fondamentale tra etica ed estetica, può fornire non solo creatività tattica, ma nuove strategie. Le conferenze tenute da Giuliana Zoppis allo Zoma Art Center, alla facoltà di Architettura e all’Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Addis Abeba hanno avuto come focus “Design for the Planet: planning, designing, producing for a sustainable growth”. Sono stati portati esempi internazionali di processi produttivi incentrati sul ciclo continuo di uso e riuso di materiali senza produzione di rifiuti. Presentando l’approccio C2C come una nuova rivoluzione concettuale che può promuovere il passaggio verso una "eco-effective society": l'approccio C2C è basato sull’idea di ridisegnare ecologicamente i processi, “fare le cose bene” la prima volta anziché compensare in seguito gli errori. Quello che si è voluto suggerire è di prendere in considerazione che non basta studiare tutto il ciclo di vita dei prodotti, dall’estrazione di materie prime alla loro dismissione, ma occorre andare oltre prospettando ogni volta un ritorno degli scarti a nuova vita. E, dove è possibile, annullare la massa dei rifiuti, promuovendo azioni globali come: dare slancio alle energie rinnovabili e celebrare la diversità in ogni campo (dalle materie prime all’agroalimentare). Con l’esortazione “metti in circolo il tuo pensiero”, nel senso di rigenerare e dare un nuovo corso alle idee. Gli incontri sono stati seguiti da centinaia di studenti etiopi di architettura e di arte e da molti professionisti internazionali nei campi della progettazione e del design.


Design for the Planet, Abbis Abeba, march 2018

I’m happy to be here with you as world ambassador for Italian design, in occasion of the Italian Design Day 2018. This event has been organized by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Italian Cultural Institutes, the Triennale of Milan for the past two years, to bring our perspective to those who, like you, are interested in designing and creating objects, works of art, and events. This world-wide Italian Design Day is the result of teamwork that engages all the public and private players who represent quality Italian design, alongside the entrepreneurial and training sectors. The topic chosen this year by Paola Antonelli, the Italian curator for architecture and design for the MOMA in New York, which is: “Broken Nature – Design Takes on Human Survival”. This is the title of the upcoming 22nd International Exhibition at the Triennale in Milan, happening from the 1st of March to the 1st of September 2019, an important event for designers, architects, artists and scientists in different fields. The idea is that it’s about time for all of these people to take a step further and begin to carry out “reparation” processes through artefacts, from digital interfaces to physical objects, to systems and infrastructures. The sooner these corrections are incorporated into all the projects, the less persistent and painful they will be. Thus, we need an attitude that will leverage on the quick paradigm shift, encouraging new behaviour that implies using objects, and productive and building processes, with a high sense of social responsibility. The citizens of the world have the same responsibility as those who design, produce, and build. The sooner we start to give back, the easier it will be to handle the debt. So, Broken Nature asks everyone to take on the debt incurred towards the damaged ecosystems in a constructive way. In this context, design intended as a fundamental connector, where ethics and aesthetics can co-exist and prosper, can provide not only tactical creativity but provide a strategy with dignity and care. Therefore, the topic I think is important to talk about in our day and age is: “Design for the Planet: planning, designing, and producing for a sustainable growth”.


I think it’s an opportunity to spread the principles of eco-sustainability at the basis of the Cradle To Cradle approach (C2C), an approach founded by architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart in 2002 and that is also a constructive and productive method, as well as a vision useful to everyone: designers, young people, self-producers, builders, artisans, artists, especially in countries like Ethiopia, which look to the future and need encouragement for a responsible growth. In this way, the seminar will align with the theme of "Broken nature", on the relationship between design and sustainability, in an economic, social and environmental sense.

A particular look will be given to the continuous cycle of use and reuse of materials without waste production and by promoting the transition to an "eco-effective society": the C2C approach is based on the idea of ??ecologically redesigning production processes, "doing things well" the first time rather than compensating for errors later.

What I’d like to suggest is for people to consider that it’s not enough to study the whole life cycle of a product, from the extraction of raw materials to their disposal. We have to go beyond that, envisioning a second life for the waste material every time. And, where possible, to zero-out the amount of waste, promoting global actions such as: boost renewable energy sources, celebrate diversity in every field (from raw material to agriculture and food), reduce the production of waste put onto the market.

Let’s be CAREFUL, though: these are theories that are still evolving, where I am an observer as much as you are, waiting to see step by step how life on this planet evolves. So it is very IMPORTANT for each one of you to express your opinions on the subject as much as possible, and the experiences you lived, in your personal life, as well as your academic and professional lives. I thank you for any inputs you will give during this meeting.



Sustainability. Gro Harlem Brundtland, a woman who served as Prime Minister in Norway and then as chairperson of the United Nation’s World Commission on Environment and Development, coined the definition “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

1. Life Cycle: between LCA and LCD, it’s time to go from the Life Cycle Analysis of products and services to their Life Cycle Design, meaning the planning of the life cycle of the products and services. It means adopting an approach and tools whose objective is to keep in mind, from the very first phase of the project, all the possible environmental implications connected to all the phases of their life cycle (procurement of raw and “secondary” materials, pre-production, production, distribution, use and disposal) and to minimise the negative effects. By working at this level, it is much easier to aim technical-productive innovation towards researching environmental quality. It is more difficult to do it in the case of a re-design of existing products.

2. Cradle to cradle. At the basis of C2C is the concept of "eco-effectiveness”, which means designing with the aim of maximising the positive impact on the environment and on human health rather than limiting itself to minimising its negative impact (eco-efficiency). There are 3 fundamental principles which the C2C approach is based on: the first is Waste = food, which means ecologically redesigning industrial processes, introducing life cycles inspired by natural systems, where what a species abandons as waste is used by others and put back into circulation as a resource and nourishment. The second is Sun = Income, which means maximising the use of renewable energy sources. The third is Celebrate diversity, which promotes biological, cultural and conceptual diversity. The benefits of C2C design consist in generating less pollution and protecting the environment; reducing dependence on raw materials; allowing a better use of the land and its resources; interpreting the challenge of sustainability as an opportunity for development, including the economic one, transforming the processes of economic innovation and growth.

3. Design: in the sense of a process that takes us from the innovative idea to the product whatever it may be: a building, an object, equipment, material, or a service. The design that is intended to be regenerative is the one that knows how to take responsibility to create new products that are durable, beautiful, functional. It is also able to stimulate the process of metamorphosis, as well as to assume sustainability as a central variable of the project.



I would now like to talk to you about the 15th Architecture Biennale “Reporting from the Front”, which, as you know, was held in Venice in 2016, curated by the Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena (who also won the Pritzker Price that year). I know that many of you have been working for a long time on the project for the Ethiopian Pavilion for the next Biennale, and I sincerely hope you will be able to participate. I will certainly come to visit you with many fellow architects and journalists. Well, I am talking to you about the Biennale because, as we will see in the slides, in 2016 the architect Michael Braungart was there, and, as we have seen, he is one of the two founders of the C2C method. The project he brought to Venice was entitled "Sustainability beyond good intentions. Sustainable construction should not cause' less damage', but rather bring more benefits”. When Braungart went to Turkey at the beginning of 2000 to detect the damage caused by the devastating earthquake of the year before, he wanted to carry out an experiment and decided to take various samples of the steel reinforcements from the collapsed buildings. He then discovered that there was too much copper in the steel. Truly too much copper in those steel structures: anything over 2%, as designers who build in our contemporary times know, produces a sort of "osteoporosis" in the alloy (just as it happens in human bones when they become old and brittle). Such an unacceptable metal composition depended on the recycling standards in force in the US at that time. The difficulty of properly separating the metals used in the manufacturing of cars meant that they were sent to Turkey, where they were transformed into faulty reinforcements. A process, which at the time in the US became a well-meaning law aimed at protecting the environment, had caused fatal collateral damage in the construction industry elsewhere. Braungart's proposal is therefore to regulate the way in which metals are bound together, so that recycling would not mean degradation. All the thinking behind the C2C is a very evolved and very important concept to consider today when waste and refuse have reached quantities that are no longer sustainable for the well-being of the planet. As we will discover in the following pictures.



To begin, here is a video with the main guidelines of the C2C vision. Let me remind you that the C2C is also one of the most authoritative certifications in the world today.

What is C2C thinking and acting?


C2C, what is and good examples

1. We tend to think of sustainability as a reduction of the damage to the planet: a lower carbon footprint, a reduction in energy consumption, lower waste production. But if we think like this, the only way to achieve sustainable construction, for example, is not to build. Some environmentalists speak of "happy degrowth". But the C2C vision proposes to reverse this approach and redefine sustainability as that which produces an advantage to the people and benefits the planet. Responsible growth.

2. For example, why should we clean the air by breathing it ourselves? We have the technology at our disposal to enable us to capture fine particulate matter, which in the EU kill more every year than road accidents.

3. Reduce CO2 outdoor, but also indoor, if not we’ll continue, without notice at all, to get sick breathing polluted air. We only need to choose the best building components that responsible manufacturers are producing and build structures that purify air and water.

4. Even indoors, we use products that emit toxic substances (Volatile Organic Compunds as clorofluorocarbures), and we use them every day: to clean, to cook, to furnish. But they are all actions that can be done with conscious choices in a completely different way. The solutions are already within reach. We must spread the word!

5. We have known for many years, at least since 1960 which materials pollute and damage our health. And that there are good alternatives. Let’s put this knowledge into practice and use alternative resources.

6. We often like to complain about the fact that certain parts of the buildings (roofs, for example) prevent the reabsorption of water into the soil. We say the same about roads. Yet roads and rooftops are very useful for the comfort of homes and cities. “Conservative” environmentalists would like to develop porous and permeable cements, pretending that roads and sidewalks do not exist. While instead, by reversing the paradigm, we could begin to consider roads and rooftops as gigantic water (and energy) collectors that can allow us to manage them in an efficient and planned way, instead of allowing it all to be lost. Another aspect is to consider that some way to build and to make water plumber, for example, cause ventilation and condensation problems. Its’ better to follow traditional systems, rather than trying low quality modern ones.

7. It is not a matter of interrupting a natural cycle but of producing, with the right infrastructure, a planned advantage for the planet. Instead of sealing our houses, let's open them up to the light and the sun, let's capture their energy and keep it in store for when we need it.

8. The C2C approach teaches us that in order to bring about significant changes we must use the strength of new cycles where nothing is thrown away and everything is regenerated.

9/11. The next three images speak for themselves and tell the story of the disaster caused by plastic waste worldwide (we may have up to 500 hundred pieces of tiny plastic in a bird!). Plastic is a design problem.

12/13. As in the following two images we see how the loss of soil to be used for agriculture goes hand in hand with the concentration of individuals who leave the countryside to converge in cities. But there is a counter-current phenomenon: in many western countries, young people increasingly choose to live and work outside large urban centres (in Italy, for example, the number has increased by 8% in recent years).

14/17. The progressive scarcity of certain materials (copper, uranium, etc.) coincides with the growth of some markets such as mobile telephony and weaponry. The mobile phone image speaks for itself.

18/21. We talked about the consequences of "primitive recycling" in relation to William Braungart's experience in Turkey during the 1999 earthquake.

22/25. The slides illustrate the criteria we listed in our introduction and show how C2C is the most mature vision available today to "repair" the planet. Today they all speak about CIRCULAR ECONOMY, but it’s not a novelty, as we can see from these researches still on by 2002. But, as we know, it takes time to be conscious and really involved. So: let’s inspire, create and act! Everyone in the world want the happiness of his/her children. The fort step is that we must buy only what is necessary, well done and long-lasting.


26/37. Holland is already ahead of the pack, as are Germany and Denmark, as you can see from the next slides.

38/39. Some of the crucial problems now: the erosion of soil by intensive cultivation (palm oil, but also corn)

40/42. Plastic is everywhere, we are really too many at the present day…althought in western countries are now borning less children…

43/46. we have already analyzed the difference between the efficient end effectivenss vision: designers, architects, artists, industries are trying to be at least more efficient, but it’s much more important to be effective. Efficiency it’s to be more modern healthy and fast-doing…BUT in this way we don’t protect our children’s future.

47/48. The C2C focus is in these 2 slides: all technological materials and parts must become technological nourishment (at the end of their first life), as all natural materials must become biological nutrients.

49. Braungart and McDonough continue to underline the BIG AIM: less bad is not good!

50. For producers and distributers, the 5 criteria to be really responsible are simple, following the cradle to cradle vision. The rating system to reach the reduction of environmental impact is quite easy. Of course, it has a cost. But also polluting has a cost, economic, social, human and environmental.

51/52. The C2C certification provides 5 level. For any information and deepening go to At a certain point we’ll see the cover of the master book on C2C: Remaking the Way We Make Things, I suggest to you to read it.


A video on the cycle of paper, from production to use and recycling: paper is one of the most used materials on the planet, so it's one of the most significant and clear examples. Despite the age of computers, mobile phones and the Internet, in fact, we always end up entrusting our thoughts to paper (diaries, postcards). The paper cycle is a good example of "putting thought into circulation", in the sense of regenerating and giving a new life to ideas.

How nature would print (illustrated by


A video that makes us think again about everything we have seen and discovered in this meeting. By Leyla Acaroglu, director of Eco Innovators.

The Secret life of things