Visionary Thinking

The world of sustainable design is filled with visionary thinkers who have revolutionary ideas. Rather than suggesting we simply be "less bad" to the environment, they hope to reinvent our post-industrial society and embrace more creative alternatives. Rather than peering down egocentrically from the top of the food chain, they recognize our vulnerable place within the ecosystem and see humankind as part of the cycle of life. They are moving beyond "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle" to "Renew, Replenish, and Restore." And they think not only about doing "no harm," but also about the more inspirational goal of "doing good."

Just some of these visionary ideas and thinkers are listed below.

The Modern Environmental Movement, Rachel Carson

A pioneering champion of the ideas that would lay the foundation for sustainable design is Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring, published in 1954, paved the way for creating public awareness of the dangers of DDT, and sparked the beginnings of the modern environmental movement. Another of Carson's books, The Sense of Wonder, is considered a classic about the importance of wild places and the importance of nature to early childhood.

Cradle to Cradle, William McDonough

William McDonough, visionary architect, educator, and author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, has spearheaded the notion that we should end the "cradle to grave" production mentality and move toward a world that operates like a natural system, in a closed loop, with no waste. Today 95% of consumer production eventually ends in a landfill. In a cradle to cradle world, everything would be reused, and there would be no waste. McDonough offers an optimistic vision of using our ingenuity and creativity to redesign the way we live and make things.

Eco-Effectiveness, William McDonough and Michael Braungart

Eco-effectiveness, a term coined by architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart, demands that we discard the notion of being "less bad" by making incremental changes in our lifestyles. Rather, we should use our ingenuity to do more, and do it in ways that are complementary with the rest of the natural world. Rather than working toward eco-efficiency (a popular concept used by business to describe incremental improvements in materials use and reductions in environmental impact), McDonough offers: "What if instead of simply reducing our ecological footprint, we designed systems that celebrate an abundance of human creativity, culture, and productivity? That are so intelligent and safe, our species leaves an ecological footprint to delight in, not lament?"

Biomimicry, Janine Benyus

In her book Biomimicry, science writer Janine Benyus uncovers how scientists and innovators in many fields are looking at nature as a model, a measure, and a mentor—analyzing nature's best ideas in order to adapt natural processes for human use. These basic principles are that nature runs on sunlight, uses only the energy it needs, fits form to function, recycles everything, rewards cooperation, banks on diversity, demands local expertise, curbs excesses from within, and taps the power of limits.

Natural Capitalism, Rocky Mountain Institute

The idea of natural capitalism, coined by authors Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins, and Paul Hawkin of the Rocky Mountain Institute, suggests that business can be good for the environment if we rethink the way we make things according to the principles of nature. In the past, the environmental movement emphasized the idea of making and producing less. Natural capitalism argues for more production, but production based on natural principles, and recommends an even stronger marriage between environmentalism and capitalism.

Revolution in Industry, Ray Anderson

Ray Anderson, founder and CEO of carpet business Interface Inc., has created one of the nation's most successful and fully realized green operations, Anderson has has taken sustainability where no other corporation has gone, instilling lofty goals into all aspects of his company's operations. Under his leadership, Interface has made radical changes toward sustainability and has inspired corporations around the world to follow suit.  Any business that wants to survive into the future must look at Interface as a model.

Revolution in Education, David Orr

David Orr, Director of the Environmental Studies Program at Oberlin College, is an exemplary educator and leader in rethinking design. His integrated vision combines theory and practicality with a call to action. Orr is recognized for his poetic, philosophical, and deeply moving writing about the importance of rethinking not only the way we design, but also the way we educate our children.

Principles of Sustainability, Hannover Principles and The Natural Step

The Hannover Principles were developed by sustainability pioneers William McDonough and Michael Braungart in 1992, and were among the first to comprehensively address fundamentals of sustainability and the built environment. The Principles propose a new relationship with nature, recognizing our interdependence and responsibility to protect it.

The Natural Step (TNS) is based upon four scientific principles and four conditions that systematically help organizations work toward sustainability by conserving natural resources and moving away from wasteful, toxin-spreading methods of handling materials and manufacturing processes. TNS concepts are now used worldwide—by corporations as diverse as McDonalds, Starbucks, Ikea, Nike, and Ford Motor Company—to help businesses set sustainability goals, measure results, and become sustainable operations.