[MUSIC PLAYING] MARY DAVIDGE: Good morning. I’m Mary Davidge. I am the director of
campus design in REWS. And this morning I have the
great pleasure and honor of introducing Bill McDonough. Bill is a visionary. He’s an amazing optimist. And beyond that he has had
an architectural practice and consulting practice– McDonough Innovation
for over 40 years. He was the founder of the Cradle
to Cradle Product Certification Institute and coauthored
two great books– “Cradle to Cradle, Remaking
the Way We Make Things,” and, “Upscaling,
Beyond Sustainability, Designing for Abundance.” Great books. He’s also been a longtime
speaker at the World Economic Forum at Davos. 15 times he’s spoken there. So you are in for
a real treat today. And what you may
not know about him, which is pretty
great at Google– for many years he
has helped us at REWS to develop our healthy
materials program and to make sure that we
are all breathing clean air and living in the cleanest
building products that we can. So join me in welcoming him. It’s going to be a
great treat for you. [APPLAUSE] WILLIAM MCDONOUGH:
Hi, everybody. I’m here because
when Mary asked me if this was of
interest, of course it is, because
Google has been one of the most astonishing
leaders in the areas that we care about,
in sustainability, cradle to cradle, circular
economy and so on. So it’s a real
privilege to be here. I’ve worked with Google
for almost 20 years. So I want to talk about
design as optimism, because people ask, what
gets you up in the morning. And what gets me
up in the morning is the fact that I’m actually
designing for children. I have the privilege
of having children. One of my children
is actually here. And I like the idea, we
design for 10-year-olds. And so when you think about
it, the future generations are really the
design assignment. And it’s a great
pleasure and a privilege to be able to work toward
those children and their health and their joys. So that’s really the optimism. It’s to make the
world better for them. Now, as an architect the
first job of an architect is to change the way you see. Then we rearrange furniture. Then we build. So start by changing
the way you see. This poem by Hildegarde
Von Bingen from 1124– “glance at the sun, see
the moon and the stars, gaze at the beauty
of earth’s greenings. Now, think.” This is a really
important set of phrases because, glance, see, gaze,
think is really important, especially when we
realize what a delight it is to be here on this planet
in the natural context. But this last
section concerns me because the language we use here
can be so sadly interpreted. All nature is at the
disposal of humankind. We are to work with it for
without it we cannot survive. This is what translates
into sustainability. I won the presidential award
for sustainable development from President Clinton in 1996. And we were in the ceremony,
and one of the reporters came up and said,
Mr. Sustainable, what does it all mean? And I remember looking
at him and saying, I’m not that really
interested in sustainability. What’s your relationship
to your spouse? If you say, sustainable,
I’d say, I’m sorry. It sounds kind of boring really. What is this, maintenance? So it’s really important to
look at this these phrases because this is about a
concept known as usufruct. It’s the idea that things
are there for our use. Right? And they’re there for our use. But if you go to
native peoples, they talk about being in relation
with the natural world. And that’s really
I think what I’d like to talk about today–
use, but also relationships. So I see us all as designers
because we all have intentions. And design is the first
signal of human intention. So when you get
up in the morning you have intentions to make
Google more sustainable here in New York. Right. You have intentions
every morning, and then you have to go out
there and see how well you’re doing against those, and try
to get everybody else to align with your intentions. So I think design is intention. And so what is our intention,
to make the world a worse place? Anybody got that when they
get up in the morning? Like, I’m going to get out
there and do something worse. It’s hard to imagine that. Really? I’m sure there are people
who are doing that, but perhaps not intentionally. So that becomes a question. How about, let’s get out
there and be less bad? Oh, really? See, being less bad
is not being good. It’s being bad by
definition, just less so. So let’s get out there
and be bad, just less so. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? But that’s what we do. So let’s start with where
we are and see if we can see something different. So for me, I was born
in Tokyo in 1951. And as a baby we would wake
up in the middle of the night. We lived in a traditional
Japanese house with paper walls. And we would hear
the farmers coming in to collect our
sewage to take back to the farms with their
oxcarts on the cobblestones. They’d wake us up. And my mother would
come in and put us back to sleep by singing
folk songs from Alabama with her southern accent
in Japanese with words she was making up that
had to do with poop. And it was about
the honey wagons coming to collect the night
soil to take it to the farms to bring us our
food the next day. And you’re three years
old, and your mother is singing poop
songs in Japanese with a southern accent. Anyway, heaven. So there it was. So I always thought the cities
and the farms are one organism. But I also became
aware of Hiroshima, because I was five years old
when I discovered Hiroshima. And it started with a
picture in Life Magazine. And I looked at it I
said, what is this? And they said, this is war. War is when we
kill the children. So what I’m looking at here
is the idea of waging peace. And so when I got to college,
I went to the physics professor and I said, how do you make a
city disappear in five seconds? It takes thousands of years
to make things and seconds to destroy them. Building is slow. Destruction is fast. How is that possible? And he gave me the special
theory of relativity and said here, read this. Solve this equation. E equals mc squared. All right, you’re
all smart people. Have you all solved
E equals mc squared? Anybody here? Ha. What to do it? Why not. If you ask the question,
how does a city disappear, all of
a sudden it starts to look a little
different, because c is the number in the constant. So that’s to me almost
infinity, because it’s bigger than I can imagine– the light and then. And then square it, just in
case it’s not big enough. All right. So call it almost
infinity squared. Oh boy. And then that means that if m
is in any way a positive number, as in one hydrogen atom,
then the e is almost infinity squared. That is the atom bomb. There it is– nuclear power. But, if we then
look at the planet we realize that that’s
coming from the sun, and it hits the earth, which
is materials and water– mass, m. And Einstein was really dealing
with physics and chemistry. Isn’t that interesting? But who are we? See, we are not
physics and chemistry. We’re what happened when
those two things get together. We’re biology. And so it’s interesting
to note in Latin that the roots for these
three words are the same– humous, human, humility. To be humble is to be grounded. Isn’t that something? We are of the soil. So Francis Crick
printed out, nine years after discovering DNA at
Cambridge with James Watson, that in order to
be a living thing you have to have growth,
because otherwise you’re dying. If you have more cells dying
than growing, you’re dying. So you have to have income if
you’ve going to have growth. And income comes from the sun. It comes from carbon from
the atmosphere and nitrogen from the atmosphere. And you have to have an
open metabolism of chemicals operating for the
benefit of the organisms and their reproduction. So, here we go. So I thought, well, what if
we could design with this? So let’s first start
by saying, what is going with all this
eco-efficiency stuff? We’re all trying to be less
bad, and think I’m being good. So let’s have a goal. Let’s make a less
bad goal and see how excited you are about
getting up in the morning. Let’s be optimistic. We’re going to
make a world that’s less unsafe, less unhealthy,
less unjust, with less polluted air, less polluted
soil, water, and power, and economically driven. How are we doing? Is this it? Get up in the morning,
go get it done. Right? Whereas you know how to search. Why don’t you just search for
this. a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy, and just world– with clean air, soil, water,
and power– economically, equitably, ecologically,
and elegantly enjoyed. There. So, if all we do
is report as we see in so many corporate
sustainability reporting and corporate social
responsibility reporting, we see all these
charts like this, even with carbon dioxide emissions. It’s like, I’m going to reduce
my emissions by 20% by 2020, and my goal is zero. Toxins– I’m going to reduce
my toxins by 20% by 2020. My goal is zero. Really. Think about that for a minute. You’re telling the children,
your goal is nothing, and they’re making
it difficult for you to do nothing, because you
have to feed and clothe them. That’s not too exciting. And then you’re telling us
what you’re not going to do. That would be like me
jumping in a taxi and saying, quick, I’m not going
to the airport. Is this really useful,
what we’re not going to do? So, what if we
take this and say, let’s not make that
on the top chart. Let’s put that
underneath, and say, what we don’t want we put below,
what we do want we put above. And let’s just imagine
having zero of the bads and 100% of the goods. We talk about selling
goods and services. Well, what if you’ve actually
thought about it and said, I sell bads. Today I’m going to
try to sell less bads. We call them goods. And then we also
realize this year, I’m sure you’re aware, that
most of the economy is actually trading,
and the amount that’s in goods and services is
actually probably about 20%. The rest of its arbitrage and
fooling around with numbers. So the actual basis of the
economy is a small part of it, but it’s fundamental because
it’s the context in which we have life. So our choices– are we
designing for the top part of this picture. Are we designing for the
bottom part of this picture? So that’s the question. So let’s go do it. What is design for good? So the sustainable development
goals– there’s 17 of them– have been put forward
by the UN now. They’re much, I think, better
than the former millennial goals because
they’re quite precise and they’re quite clear. And there’s nothing here
I think anybody here would say is not a good idea. And let us know if you think so. And the circular economy is
certainly an important one, but it’s just right here. It’s number 12. It’s one. But a lot of business
people, when they say, oh 17 goals, how
can do all that? Well you can actually. And I’ll show you now. And will cradle to
cradle thinking, if you do material health,
circular economy, material re-utilization, renewable
energy, water stewardship, and social fairness, you
can do all 17 at once. But it’s not going to help
us, for example, to have a circular economy circulating
bads, because all you’re doing is recirculating the bads. If you have toxic products
and you recirculate them, you retoxify. So you’re putting the “re”
back into the resource. But what if the source is toxic? Just remember, a
toxin is a material in the wrong place, the wrong
dose, the wrong duration. Water is highly toxic. If I surround you with this
for six minutes, you’re dead. If you jump out of an
airplane and hit the ocean at terminal velocity, very, very
short duration, very big dose– you’re dead. So materials in the wrong place,
wrong dose, wrong duration are toxic. We don’t say to the
children of Flint, we’re going to reduce the lead
in your water by 20% by 2020. When you have a toxin, you stop. You stop. So starting in 1992, working
with Michael Braungart, a chemist, we created
criteria that we use. No more cancer,
no more disruption of endocrine systems,
genetic mutations, reproductive toxicities,
and birth defects. Why can’t we design these out? Precautionary principle– if
it could cause that problem, why have it? Just move on. Don’t argue about
the little doses. Talk about getting rid of it. We looked at environmental
criteria– toxicity for fish, for vertebrates,
invertebrates, plants. We looked at toxic heavy
metals, persistence and so on. And then we want to know where
it comes from, where it goes, how’s it being managed,
how does it affect people? So we developed a
certification program which is now in
the public domain for constant improvement– third-party, independent,
peer reviewed. And this is what we shared
with Google as well. So in this search for
the good, let’s just keep it simple for the kids. All right? Good, clean water is good. Dirty water is bad. So when you think
about trying to deal with platonic perfections
of truth, beauty, and equity, and rights, and the
humanism of our relationships, morals, ethics, you can
talk about the good. If you look at Aristotelian
science and math and statistical significance,
which Google obviously is a part and a practitioner
of statistical significance, then you’ve got the math. Right. So if we try and
put this together, we realize to start
with the good. It’s easier than
right and wrong, because right and wrong lead us
to politics and other things. Good and bad are pretty basic. So let’s say if we have good
materials, good economy, good energy, good water, and
good lives, what would we do? So good materials would
be safe, healthy for ecologically and human systems. They would be biological
and technical nutrients. That would be first– so things that go
back to nature, things that go back to industry. What I want from this cup
that we were drinking out of here that was PLA– it’s compostable. That can go back to
the biological cycle. This is polyester terephthalate. This is polyethylene. This can go back to
technical material. So let’s just imagine it that
way– two nutrient cycles. A good economy would
be circular, of course, putting the “re”
back in resources, but only if the resource
itself is safe and healthy. So it’s quality
first, then quantity. Sharing– Uber, Airbng– sharing things that we could use
to get more utility from them of course is a good idea. But finally shared,
because it was pointed out at the World Economic Forum
that eight people in this world, individuals, six of
whom are American, have the equivalent wealth so
three and 1/2 billion people. The bottom half of
the economic spectrum. So is that shared? Then we think about
the linear economy. And what we do is
take, make, and waste. And so as long as
we do that, we’re going to run out of stuff. And everybody worries
about decoupling materials from our economy because of the
problems with their connection. But if you then put it
in a circular economy, we can start to think
about how we might even be able to restore the natural
world with an economy that reuses. So we’ve been working with
companies like Steelcase, Herman Miller and
so to design chairs that can be disassembled. Say a chair like this–
it’s very simple. It’s got a foam. It’s got a polymer. It has a fabric. This one I think is a polyester. And then you’ve got
steel, rubber, and so on. Now these can be designed
to go back into systems. Fine. Now we have to figure
out how to get that done. We work in the carpet
industry very vigorously. What you want from a
carpet, we pointed out, is just service of the carpet–
acoustics, appearance, and so on. And if you think of it
as a relationship instead of a resource, the carpet
can be sold to the customer, but taken back by
the carpet company as their raw
material in 10 years. And then we can recycle 1.4
billion pounds of carbon material every year and have
a perpetual carbon industry, if we design it cradle to cradle
and it’s safe and healthy, and we use renewable
power and so on. Change the carpet, the world
gets better, more jobs. Good. What’s really happening
there is you’re storing your materials on
your customer’s floors. So when we look at
biological nutrition, we do textiles where we’ve
done cotton polyesters– excuse me, cotton,
wool, ramie and so on. And we just announced
two weeks ago in Amsterdam, the first 100%
of the molecules assessed for ecological and human health
t-shirt at a mass market price. They’re making 1/2
a million of them– C&A. It’s pretty exciting. So 100% of molecules assessed
for ecological human health. So the future involves
mining of a different sort. This is mining circuit boards. If you mine gold out in nature,
it’s $210 a ton production. If you mine it from
circuit boards from phones, it’s worth $27,000 a ton. And we can get it done
without any contamination. It’s quite astonishing. These factories can
be self-contained. When we looked at a washing
machine 25 years ago and said, it’s really a service. You want to wash clothes. You don’t need to own rubber
gaskets and steel and glass, everybody said, well you’re
a communist because you don’t believe in ownership. And we’re saying,
well, what do I need? I mean, think about a building. This is a building we
designed for Bosch and Siemens who make, guess what? Washing machines. And think of the building. It’s a showroom. It’s a washing machine. It’s a giant vessel
with people all over it. But the fact is that you can
have these on a 15-year lease. And the materials are valuable
and valuable to the people who can use those materials. Not you. You get to wash the clothes. Here you get to work or live. This building can be converted
to housing in the future. In Amsterdam we’re
doing a big project where we look at the
materials and the building as assets, perpetual assets. So we design them with
our computer coding so we know where everything is. The steel beam can be
sold as a steel beam if the building’s taken down. If you do it this way,
design for disassembly with the buildings
as perpetual assets, the cost of tearing down
a building in 15 years if the bank ends up with it,
to get it out of the way, is 80 euros a square meter. The value of selling it,
if we do it this way, is about 120 euros
a square meter. So there’s a spread of about 200
euros a square meter, about $20 per square foot, with the
difference of designing it one way or the other. And this attaches itself
to your current pro forma, because it’s a massive risk
reduction for the finance community. So these buildings
are all designed to be converted to
housing in the future. This is the waste treatment
system for the project right here. Turn into an asset
instead of a liability. Here’s a building we
did for IBM that is now being converted to housing. And the developers called us
and said, we can’t believe this. We took your floor
plan and it’s housing. And we said, yeah, we
designed it that way. We designed the building
to be converted housing in the future, just in case
they didn’t need offices. Why wouldn’t we do that? How much fun. So that’s part of why we
won this award at the World Economic Forum for
being the founders of the circular economy. The circular economy
is really important as long as we see it as
a joy of perpetual assets that have benefits to society. So this is a little pavilion
I put on top of a men’s store and a beauty parlor
at the entrance to the World Economic Forum. It’s made from two pieces
of aluminum, A and B. There are only parts. This structure was
put up in one day. And it lives during the year
in places like Amsterdam, gets brought back up,
fits in a container. The walls are made
of a new nano gel, aero gel insulation this thick. It’s equivalent
of that much foam, cradle to cradle certified. So we want good energy,
not just less bad energy. So we designed NASA’s
space station on earth in Mountain View of all places. And this is the
design team we used. So we said to the people
here– we went to Houston to the Johnson
Space Center where they heard the words,
“Houston we have a problem,” remembering too that this is
the capital of oil in America. And when Sheikh Yamani
formed OPEC, and they said, when do you think we’ll see
the end of the age of oil, his answer was, I don’t
know that we’ll ever see the end of the
age of oil, but I do know that the
Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. So if we really think
about it, these people invented the
[INAUDIBLE] so they can nuclear power a space station. Well here we are down
here in the blue planet. So instead of going
to Mars right away, let’s come back to earth. This is in Mountain View. It has the potential of
making 120% of the energy it needs from renewable power
and purifying its own water. It’s cradle to cradle materials. And to keep my sun shades
from disappearing during value engineering, we
put the structure on the outside of the building
as they do for wind tunnels so that if anybody tries to
get rid of our sun shades, the building falls down. Now this is an important
picture, I think. This is from the Middle East. This is Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This is 800 megawatts
of solar energy coming. What’s interesting about this
is the contract for the price– 2.9 cents a kilowatt hour. That’s half the price of wind,
half the price of burning gas. Solar, game on, here it comes. Now these are running
north-south, not east-west. We’ll get to that in a
second, and here’s why. This is an experiment
going on at Davis with some friends of ours. And this is solar collectors
that rock from east to west during the
day, and it brings back all the grasses, the
agriculture, the water and the soil. It’s unbelievable. The fungus starts to grow
because of the shade. And so this idea, I
think, of actually being able to do five
economic strains at once– fiber, food, water retention,
carbon sequestration, atmospheric cooling,
and solar energy, and actually the
production of clean water because we can use them as
dew collectors in the morning and then use it as focused
irrigation in the afternoon. So this is an astonishing
set of pictures, I think. So when you take
that and translate it I call it solar orchards. It’s a form of silviculture. Here’s a building we designed
for the Netherlands that can produce more energy than
it needs to operate and purify it’s own water. And it has a budget the same
as a normal office building. So what is good water? Good water is clean
and it’s available. It’s a human right. So the idea is not just, can
I take out some of the lead. The idea is, every child should
have clean healthy water. So we’ve designed textiles
where the water coming into the factory
comes out clean– clean enough to
drink, which means you’d rather use it
again, which means you don’t have any water coming
out, because all you lose is evaporation. So all of a sudden we
realized that our factories can be purification rituals. This is the world’s largest
green roof, the [INAUDIBLE] for Ford Motor Company. This is, I don’t know,
12, 15 years ago. And we used this to
purify all the water on the site instead of chemical
treatment plants and pipes. And it’s saved $435
million day one, CAPEX. Which with the Taurus
at a 4% margin, is the equivalent of
walking into the board and giving them an order for
$900 million worth of cars. The world’s largest green roof. So this is a drawing of a
factory by me as a 10-year-old. And on the left, this is what
you look at for a factory, and on the right is what we’d
like to look at for the future. So this is our factory for
Method under construction. And it’s got the
largest greenhouses on a building in the world now. It’s what I’ve been told. And it’s a factory that’s wind
powered and solar powered. And the great thing
about something like this– imagine a child
in Pullman in Chicago, and when you ask them,
what is a factory, instead of drawing a thing with smoke
coming out it, they draw this. They draw things
that are growing food for their neighbor. It’s a food desert there. They don’t have fresh food. And so now they have
jobs making fresh food. This is part of what it
means to have a good life– safe, dignified for your kids. And we could actually
design all kinds of strange and wonderful things. This is a factory
in India we did, where we put all the structure
on the outside of the building to keep it out of the
factories so it’s clean. But we can do all
these different things with this structure. We can grow food up there. We have solar
collectors up there. We have jobs up there. So you’re not only in
the factory making jobs. This is our first
tomato right here. Here it is. The families can grow their
organic food here, as well as work here in the sunshine. Now this is the idea of sharing. And I just want
to show this man. His name was Venkataswamy. He died, I don’t know,
five years ago now. A cataract surgeon–
but he said, why is it $1,900 to
get your eyesight back when you’re 80-years-old? I can do it in 10 minutes. All I need is a cubic meter
of sterility and one scalpel. And this interocular
lens is $200. Why is it $200? We have contact lenses
that are disposal. Why is this $200 each? And we have blind people. And I can give them back
eyesight in 10 minutes. So he said, what if I
gave it away for free? I could go to scale, because
I could have my own factories. And then we’d see what it
costs for the rich people. Anyway, when he died, he’d
given eyesight to three million people for free– three million people for free. And the people who could
afford it had to pay $50. And he had seven hospitals. He built the business to
become immensely successful by collapsing the price for
those who could afford it, and everyone else
gets it for free. And because they
get it for free, the other people
could afford it. I mean, think about that. So the model becomes
a different question. We change the question of
statistical significance from, how much can I get
for how little I give, the question of modern
commerce, to how much can we give for all that we get? We move from limits and greed
to abundance and sharing. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] MARY DAVIDGE: So we’re going
to have a little bit of time for questions for Bill. But I’m going to– while you think
of your questions, I’m going to start with a few
that I’ve had for some time. The first is, I know
how many decades it’s taken you to achieve
many of the things that now they look
like they were easy. But I know how hard
they were in a world where no one was really
addressing these issues. How do you stay optimistic? How do you hold that long
vision that we now are all benefiting so much from? WILLIAM MCDONOUGH: It
comes back to children. In the Irish tradition,
in ancient Irish tradition there were five worlds and
the first was this one. And the second one is
called fairy, where the way they describe it it looks
exactly the same as this world, it’s just a little bit better. So I try and spend as much
time there as possible, because otherwise
you get depressed. But the third world
is called Tir Na Nog, and it’s the land of
the forever young. And people in this
world think that it might be nice to
be forever young– it’s the Persephone myth. But it’s underwater. It’s in the umbrage. And the forever young
call us the immortals, because we can have
children and they can’t. That’s interesting. And they’re waiting
for Armageddon. They’re waiting for the shoe
to drop, boom, like that. So acting as if
you’re forever young means you get this sort
of pathos and this fear that all of a sudden things
will end in an instant because you’re forever young. And I think that
issue for me, if you look at what happened
with the nuclear bomb in the middle of
the last century, after that point people
started living as if there might be no tomorrow. So we started creating
planned obsolescence. Party up, because there
might be no world tomorrow. So what difference does it
make if you use lots of paper? The world might end in a moment. And so I think
we’ve started living as if there’s no tomorrow. We’re acting as if
we’re forever young. And I think it’s
starting to haunt us now, because we see both what happens
because we think that way, on a day to day basis. But also we started
doing design– we call it design for end of life. I mean, really? Design for end of life–
if design is intention, is our intention to end life? You know? What if we are successful? Oh no. So we say design for
next use, instead of design for end of life. And once you say I’m
designing this for next use, then you don’t look at
this and say, oh plastics. You go, oh, a durable
form of carbon. If I recycled that using
solar power and so on, I could use this over and over
again for many generations. This becomes an asset,
not a liability. So that’s why I’m
always optimistic, because where everybody else
sees liabilities, I see assets. MARY DAVIDGE: And possibility. WILLIAM MCDONOUGH: And
possibilities, yeah. MARY DAVIDGE: Bill,
who inspires you? WILLIAM MCDONOUGH:
Other than you? MARY DAVIDGE: Who inspires you? WILLIAM MCDONOUGH: Well,
you do, that’s for sure. When you look at what
you’ve accomplished, it’s quite astonishing. My hero as a child was Gandhi. I was in Hong Kong, and
we were a British colony. And I thought the
questions he was asking were really so critical,
and in a country where soil is the source
of all the relations. And when I became an architect–
and one of my first projects was to look if I could design
a Hindu temple for a Hindu community. So I went to India for six
weeks and had a begging bowl and lived with a Hindu
community as a beggar. And I studied the shastras for
the design of Hindu temples and realized it was just
something I could never do, because you need to be inured
so deeply in the culture to do something that was meaningful. But the part that
really struck me was that in order to
build the Hindu temple you had to take,
usually a rocky spot, and then you had to
bring it to life. You had a three year protocol
to create fecundity there. You had to make it healthy
and full of food and benefit– flowers. It was amazing. It’s a very prescribed process. And then you give the
soil that you just made from the sun and the rocks
and the air and the water, fecundity, growth,
and then you give that to the farmers around
it and build the temple. The temple has to be built
on a place that’s alive. Isn’t that beautiful? So I found that to be something
I like to do as a ritual. I think it’s an important idea. And when I was at the
Museum of Natural History here, in the rotunda on
the way into the Hall of the African peoples
they have this quote. And I looked it up
online later saying, wow, who’s Galla It was
attributed to Galla. I said, is this
some kind of Latin? What is this? And Galla was a subtribe
of the Oromo in Ethiopia. And the poem which
they then state is like, nobody knows
what this means. Here’s the poem. “One is born. One dies. The land increases.” That’s the poem. What does it mean? The world gets better
because we’re here. Biology. One is born, one dies. It’s the soil increases. So that’s why I’m optimistic. MARY DAVIDGE: That’s great. So I have one more, and then
anyone who wants– oh, we’ve got a question here. OK. I’ll hold mine. Yes. AUDIENCE: Hi. A question– I wonder
what are your thoughts about the main
obstacles from using the new energy like
solar, nuclear, wind from being our
main source of power? Is there anything stopping–
or what can we do? WILLIAM MCDONOUGH: Let
me repeat the question. If I get it wrong, let me know. It’s, what is the main obstacle
between us using solar, wind, and other forms of clean power
from the conventional practice we have now. I think it’s very
straightforward really. It’s the incumbency
of existing actors. People become
positionally conservative, because that’s
what they’re doing and that’s what they
want to keep doing, so they protect it at all costs. So that’s what
you’re up against. What you’re coming
in with, which are what I would call them the
tools of waging peace, are– we have the things that
don’t require regulation, because typically these
are relatively safe. In the case of
solar and wind they provide an immense
number of jobs. So we can argue
that one, for sure. And the price has collapsed
in the case of solar because the commoditization
of solar collectors, which have had a bit of a
rough and tumble road with a dramatic moment with
the Chinese dumping solar into the world. So it’s caused a bit of a shock. But it’s all part
of the collapse of the cost of these things. So in the end, I
think the economics are going to be the key driver. So when President Trump
says we want to bring back all the jobs in coal, the
language might want to be, and as I think it will play
out, when you look at the coal companies and some of the other
facilities they’re developing, even in West Virginia,
it’s interesting to note they’re solar-powered
because it’s cost effective. And when you think about
it it’s quite astonishing. We’re seeing solar energy in
West Virginia at about 4.7 cents a kilowatt hour. Well that’s the same price as
buying coal-fired electricity. So the economics are coming. And I think it’s really
the job creation. Because there’s going to be
a lot more jobs putting up solar collections
in West Virginia than having big equipment
and tear off mountaintops. AUDIENCE: It’s economic
coming only recently? WILLIAM MCDONOUGH: Yes. It’s quite recent in the
big picture of things. It’s been within
the last five years that we’ve seen
the tipping point. But we still have to look at– we’re at a point
now if they just stripped subsidies of all kinds
off of every source of energy, the renewables would
just take over. So this idea of
saying we’re not going to get subsidies
to solar because we want to bring back the coal– coal is subsidized. Oil is subsidized. They’re all subsidized
one way of the other, tax credits or otherwise. And if you just strip
it all off and say, we’re going to be
economic creatures, let’s go get the
right stuff done– and if you add the
cost of regulation, and you add the cost
of cleaning up things, or you add the perpetual
liabilities we create, renewables are going
to win hands down. So I think we keep pushing. MARY DAVIDGE: Thank you. Yes. AUDIENCE: Does this work? OK. So first of all, thank you. This is really inspiring. I mean, just refreshing to
see this way of thought, even for someone that’s
very into ecological causes and recycling and all that,
to embed all that into design thinking is very refreshing
and very inspiring. I have actually a follow up
question to what you just discussed. I tend to agree that
our biggest barriers are conventional thinking
and doing things the way we’ve always done them. And we’ve developed quite a
culture and quite an economy based on scarcity and greed, and
it’s hard to change from that. And I for one don’t have
a lot of hope for adults, but I do have a lot
of hope for children. And I want to touch on
what you just talked about. Economics are a great
driver, probably the best driver for stuff, at least
in our capitalist culture, for sure. There are some things
though that are probably best not left to economics. Just to give one example,
everybody recycles a glass here I imagine. It’s been very big for
the last few decades. But really nowadays glass
recycling is not economical. In fact, some
localities in the states stopped recycling
glass because it just cost too much to transport it
and it’s easier and cheaper to manufacture. So here the economics are
kind of upside down, right. They’re driving us to
do the wrong thing. So this is where I think
the only chance we have is to change the way we think. And do you, and how
do you see integrating this wonderful way of thinking
into educational programs so that the next
generation will make all the right choices regardless
of the economic incentives? WILLIAM MCDONOUGH:
Great question. I think that if you design
it for 10-year-olds– see 10-year-olds
look at this stuff and consider what I’m
talking about to be obvious. That’s really important. When I heard the other
day that cradle to cradle is now used in a very
famous English university in the course on rhetoric
in the English department, I heard they’re a little grumpy
it was written by an American. But it’s how to make an
argument in the English language so that when you finish
reading it, you say, well that was obvious. And then you think back
and before you read it, it wasn’t at all. So what is that? And I think we’ve reached
that point of the obvious. Now, when you think of glass,
for example, in the recycling, you’re absolutely right. We can still sell clear
cullet at a material recovery facility in the United States. Clear glass is still
economically recyclable. But the colored glass, which is
most of it, is not, et cetera. So there’s mountains
of it around. So one of the things
to do immediately on that is to say,
what can we use it for, for example while we
transition from glass or are continue to use it. It’s quite a lovely material
and quite optimized actually, in many respects. It’s, we could be
making things with it. So I think we can have local
manufacturers in places making kitchen counters out
of it, whatever we want. There’s plenty of things to
do with glass as an aggregate. So start to think of it as a
resource rather than a waste and then see what happens. Don’t just say, I have to melt
it and turn into glass again. You can turn it
into other things. So that’s one kind of element. The other is as we look
at these materials– I wrote an essay for the
science journal, Nature that they entitled,
“Carbon is not the Enemy,” and I was calling it a
new language for carbon. And the thing that
made me so sad– and this brings
us to the children who see this as obvious– is that at the TED Conference,
which is going on now– last year the prime minister
of Bhutan got up and said, we’re going to be a
carbon-negative country, and that’s good. And it broke my heart because
to be a carbon-negative country being a good, that means carbon
itself must be a negative. So you have a double negative
making it good, right? The problem is, less
and bad are not numbers. Less is a relationship
of numbers. Bad is human value. So you can’t multiply less and
bad and get a positive result. It’s bad by definition,
just less so. So the idea of
carbon-negative as a positive broke my heart, because
carbon is source of life. So really it’s the
human behavior. So this new language– I basically said, what if
we treat carbon emissions in the atmosphere
today as a toxin, and then we call that
carbon negative behavior, and let’s call the
carbon fugitive. Because the value of
a tool is put there by the user, and the
intention of the user. So a hammer in the
hands of a child is a toy, in the hands of
a carpenter is your house, and in the hands of a
maniac it’s a weapon. So the hammer is innocent. So is carbon. So carbon, unnatural
carbon in the atmosphere, not good– fugitive carbon. Then in the middle
of it all would be durable carbon–
a limestone mountain sitting calmly,
or plastics, which are carbon that are being
recycled across generations over and over again. That’s a durable form of carbon. So we call that durable carbon. If we burn it for energy– fugitive, oops, nightmare,
carbon in the atmosphere. So do not call this
waste energy thing renewable power, which we do in
the United States by the way. The EPA characterizes
waste energy as renewable power,
which is insane. Then this ends up in
the oceans, and we now hear that by 2050 the amount
of plastic in the ocean will be equal to that of fish. How are we doing on statistical
significance, right? So that is durable
carbon getting fugitive into the ocean. Oops, right? So I’m working on a project
to try and figure out how we stop that flow. Then if you have carbon in
soil, you have living carbon. So fugitive carbon, durable
carbon, living carbon– and living carbon accrues more
carbon from the atmosphere. And so we can start
designing things that send carbon back to
soil, even polymers like this. And we can even design
these polymers to biodegrade and compost into soil. Because I see this
oil as ancient soil, they just added an s. Right. Add the “s” and go to soil. So put the “s” back so
we can use various things like [INAUDIBLE] and open
up the polymer chains and design these
things to go back to carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen,
and build soil with them too. So that whole thing
is a design system. So that’s a long answer to
what to do about the glass. MARY DAVIDGE: It’s a funny
thing that you brought up that question. Interesting that you
brought up that question. Sometimes it’s thinking
beyond the problem. In our construction
projects we’re now looking at using
local recycled glass as a [INAUDIBLE], as an
ingredient in concrete to replace [INAUDIBLE], which
is a derivative of coal. So I think sometimes you
notice these problems, and then in the circular
economy you can think beyond it and solve two problems really. AUDIENCE: I’m sorry, just
a quick, quick follow up. I guess what ultimately I’m– you have your
wonderful book here. I want the children’s version. WILLIAM MCDONOUGH: Yeah. AUDIENCE: I want– WILLIAM MCDONOUGH: I know. I get asked that every week. AUDIENCE: That the
next generation is less influenced by our old
and outdated conventions and our cynicism and
our greed and scarcity, and inspired to do this. WILLIAM MCDONOUGH:
I think that’s why– I created the five
goods because we were working on a fashion center
in Amsterdam for a fashion initiative for the world
to take on fast action with this concepts of
cradle to cradle and cradle to cradle certified. So I called it the
five goods so that it could be just a
free set of terms that are basic to
everyone on the planet. This is good. That’s bad. That kind of thing. So that the five goods is the
title of my children’s book to come. MARY DAVIDGE: That’s
such a great idea. OK, this side of the room. AUDIENCE: OK. I had two questions,
but I’m going to decide to take the good
question rather than the less bad question. [LAUGHTER] And it’s pretty
open-ended, I think. I was really inspired by
your work– great stuff. I’m glad I came and
thanks for sharing. And I think it’d be great to
hear some ways that we could kind of translate
that to our own lives as someone who’s not
always thinking about it, but any time I do
I’m inspired by it and I want to be involved
and contribute in some way. So do you have any
suggestions or mantras or ways to get involved that you think,
kind of like the layman, could contribute to that
the circular society? WILLIAM MCDONOUGH: Right. It’s a great question. How do we do it in
our daily lives? I think, for me, one
of the great joys is contemplating the garden. Think about the machine
in the garden, right. And you’re living in the garden. So do that. Live in the garden. So think about, like, grow
food, heal soil, compost– all those basic actions that
connect you back to the soil. Walk barefoot. Take trips to places where
you can’t use your phone because you feel stupid. Where you have to look at
the bubbling stream, and say, I can’t talk on a phone. I have this bubbling
stream here. It’s too beautiful. That kind of thing. Go out in the natural
world as much as you can. Celebrate your presence there. And that is part of, I
think, of the healing that goes on with us. Because even if you look at the
notion of our daily activities, there’s this notion of sort
of the platonic purity of, the joy of beauty and truth
and the human imagination and with creativity,
an experience. That’s really important. And I’m sure you
celebrate that every day when you have revelations
in your work and so on. Then there’s this issue of how
do you act on wisdom, which is the Aristotelian question. If you know this beauty,
then how do you behave? What do you do? So it’s essentially, how
do you get from your values to value creation every day? So if you live in the
world of value creation, like just money and number,
you can pound your way up through tactics and
strategies to goals, but you can’t get to your values
of what’s right and wrong. You’re in the world number, see. But if you start with your
values, what do you think is right and wrong? Live that, then develop a set
of principles to behave by that don’t move. That’s why I wrote
something called the, “Hannover
Principles,” for us. These are design principles–
things that don’t move. Respect the relationship
between spirit and matter. Insist on the rights of
humanity and nature to co-exist. Eliminate the concept of waste. Respect the limitations
of human design. Be humble. If anybody has trouble with
humility, just know this, it took us 5,000 years to
put wheels on our luggage. We went to the moon before
we had wheels on our luggage. So we’re not that smart. It took another 20 years to
put four wheels on our luggage. But, you know, we’re moving. But have some humility here. Then you go to design
and you have visions. And we know that without
execution, visions are hallucinations. I live there. That’s I do visions. I do that professionally. But I know that if they don’t
get executed, they’re not real. So then you go to your goals. Then you do your strategies. Then you do your tactics. Then you do the metrics. Then you show the value. Show the value last. Show your values first. Because as Peter
Drucker pointed out, it’s a manager’s job to be
efficient and do something the right way, but
it’s the executives job to do the right thing. Because if you’re in
the wrong business, it doesn’t matter how
efficient you are. If you use Six Sigma
statistical perfection, while you do the wrong thing,
you become perfectly wrong. So as a person, just try
to live with your values, and then exercise
them every day. And if you grow safe
healthy food for yourself, just try that. Watch what happens. Because you’re doing
the right thing. And then you get all
caught up in doing it the right way, which is fun. Because it’s a curious thing
to do, watch things grow. AUDIENCE: Thank you. MARY DAVIDGE: One
more quick question. Emily. AUDIENCE: Yeah. I think my question’s
changed like 35 times since I’ve been standing here. I do sustainability here for
those of you that don’t know. And waste initiative is
kind of our focus this year. So you talk a lot
about getting people to go back to their
values and really it’s everybody that has
to think about it. So one of the things that we
did for Earth Week was set up a recyclables display that
I think you might have seen. Did you see it, anybody? The Commons? No? See, we did not
publicize that enough. But it was a massive container
that shows two separations. So one of them was clean
recyclables– glass, metal, plastic that can
be recycled, and the other is dirty. So within this
stream, at this point we’re working within the system
that we have in New York which, if it’s not clean, it
doesn’t get recycled, it ends up in landfill. We have incineration. It’s terrible. So trying to educate
people, especially in a city that moves so fast
and is so based on disposable– how do you try to bring
that to people’s attention? I mean, I’ve tried in, obviously
gloom and doom kind of ways, like look at how
much waste there is. Drop the Box campaign,
so that people use a plate instead of a
disposable– those kinds of things. And it seems to be something
that people care about when you talk to them one on one. But in masses it’s difficult
to get it to catch on. So how do you suggest that
we get more people involved in those kinds of things? WILLIAM MCDONOUGH: It is
one of the great questions. I was saddened to hear
recently that the tourists who went to Bali to see some
exquisite tropical place with a culture that
was gracious and gentle are not going now because the
beaches are covered in plastic. And if you look at
the history of Bali, it’s only been one generation
from when they used leaves for plates, and they
ate with their hands. So it used to be you went
there and you got a plate, and when you’re finished
with the plate it’s what we call soil compostable. It was like ba. So a world where
littering is fun, and it goes back to the soil. Oh my goodness. So I think we should
learn from that. And if we can start to imagine
that all of this detritus we have becomes
exquisitely designed to go back to cycles so people
can go on with their lives, and littering is fun. See right now I’m looking
at these giant projects for how to do road maps for
packaging as well as designing buildings and products. And part of what I’m trying
to figure out how to do is make it fun. So please litter
becomes like, huh? So right now I’m working
on e-commerce packaging that is all based on soil health
and just for the fun of it. So that getting e-commerce,
instead of it as some terrifying hybridization
of strange packaging– I don’t know what you’ve seen. But you get boxes this big
with little things and bubbles and plastic. It’s like the whole thing
just shows how insane it is. So I think it’s a
big design problem. When I asked Ron Gonen when
he was the deputy commissioner of sanitation for
New York if I could solve one problem for
him, what would it be? See they’ve built
composters now. So they are taking combustibles
in New York and composting. But they can’t see the cup that
you’re using here for water. We just had some water in a cup. AUDIENCE: They’re
flaring the gas. WILLIAM MCDONOUGH: And
they’ll flare the gas that comes from all that. Yeah, exactly. So it’s suboptimal. And so I think we need a marking
system for all these materials that we can see. And it probably has to be
optical so we can see it anywhere– that it can be done
by humans with two optical sensors her– very sophisticated,
and our robotic 3-D articulated elements. So I think we need
a marking system, and I think we need to make
this into something exquisitely beautiful. So we celebrate this instead
of saying minimize, avoid, reduce waste and
feel guilty, we say, eliminate the concept
of waste by design so that you can
celebrate, optimize, and share the joy of packaging. When I was a kid in Japan,
the package was the gift. How you ever seen
packaging in Japan? Oh. People will give you a gift
and it was so much fun. You’d unfold it. It was origami. You’d have a silk
scarf, you know. And then the question became,
who got the silk scarf? Do you give it back, cause
they can use it again or do you get to keep it
and use it for another gift? I mean, it’s a whole culture. Eggs came in rice straw,
braided rice straw. AUDIENCE: I’ll have to talk to
some of the sourcing people. WILLIAM MCDONOUGH: Yeah. But his biggest problem– Ron’s biggest problem
he said was hamburger. A hamburger, an old hamburger
sitting in a plastic film in a foam tray. There was absolutely nothing
he could do with that. And that starts to send
the signals that we’re going to have to do a lot more
things that are biodegradable, compostable coherently all
the way to the molecules, not into tiny bits of
plastic, which we see today. AUDIENCE: Yeah, the
zero waste by 2030– I sat in a group that asked
the organizations what they’d done so far and
nobody had an answer yet. So, we’ll see. Optimism. MARY DAVIDGE: Optimism. You can be like
Bill, never give up. WILLIAM MCDONOUGH: Yeah. Persistence. MARY DAVIDGE: Persistence. OK, I think we’ve
reached our time. Thank you all so much for
coming, and thank you, Bill. WILLIAM MCDONOUGH:
You’re welcome. MARY DAVIDGE: Thanks
so much for being here. [APPLAUSE]

4 thoughts on “William McDonough: “Design as Optimism” | Talks at Google”

  1. I think this is perhaps the most immaculate talk on sustainability I've ever had the privilege of hearing. It deals with these issues to a level complexity and nuanced it is fairly uncommon in high-quality climate communication. Bravo!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *