Cradle-to-cradle design (also referred to as 2CC2, C2C, cradle 2 cradle, or regenerative design) is a biomimetic approach to the design of products and systems that models human industry on nature's processes, where materials are viewed as nutrients circulating in healthy, safe metabolisms. The term itself is a play on the popular corporate phrase "cradle to grave", implying that the C2C model is sustainable and considerate of life and future generations—from the birth, or "cradle", of one generation to the next generation, versus from birth to death, or "grave", within the same generation.
C2C suggests that industry must protect and enrich ecosystems and nature's biological metabolism while also maintaining a safe, productive technical metabolism for the high-quality use and circulation of organic and technical nutrients. It is a holistic, economic, industrial and social framework that seeks to create systems that are not only efficient but also essentially waste free. Building off the whole systems approach of John T. Lyle's regenerative design, the model in its broadest sense is not limited to industrial design and manufacturing; it can be applied to many aspects of human civilization such as urban environments, buildings, economics and social systems.
The term "Cradle to Cradle" is a registered trademark of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) consultants. The Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program began as a proprietary system; however, in 2012 MBDC turned the certification over to an independent non-profit called the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. Independence, openness, and transparency are the Institute's first objectives for the certification protocols. The phrase "cradle to cradle" itself was coined by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970s. The current model is based on a system of "lifecycle development" initiated by Michael Braungart and colleagues at the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA) in the 1990s and explored through the publication A Technical Framework for Life-Cycle Assessment.
In 2002, Braungart and William McDonough published a book called Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, a manifesto for cradle-to-cradle design that gives specific details of how to achieve the model. The model has been implemented by a number of companies, organizations and governments around the world, predominantly in the European Union, China and the United States. Cradle-to-cradle design has also been the subject of many documentary films such as Waste = Food.