What Is the Cradle to Grave Life Cycle?
The cradle to grave life cycle is an environmental impact assessment that examines the full life cycle of a product from “cradle” (raw resource extraction) to “grave” (the disposal phase). The phases of the cradle to grave life cycle are:
- raw material extraction
By examining a product throughout its entire life cycle, you are able to examine its impact on the environment throughout each phase of its “life.” Breaking the life cycle of a product into phases allows both manufacturers and consumers to see where in the cycle there is room for improvements, creating opportunities to decrease negative environmental impact. But the underlying assumption is that a product’s life is linear, and disposal is inevitable. The cradle to grave life cycle is how we have been producing and consuming things for years. We buy and throw away products without considering what happened before we bought it and what happens to it after we throw it away. It’s not our problem. Right?
Well, not quite. Things don’t just magically disappear after we’re done with them. But there is a better way. Michael Braungart and William McDonough reevaluated the cradle to grave life cycle in their 2002 book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. The book looks at a new way of consumerism: the cradle to cradle life cycle. The cradle to cradle life cycle aims to reduce negative environmental impact by stopping the disposal of waste materials and instead using waste materials in the production of new products. The idea came from looking at biological life cycles—in nature, waste equals food. One organism’s waste is seen as another’s nutrients—so why can’t the same be true in the industrial world?
How Resale Affects the Cradle to Grave Life Cycle
Resale disrupts the cradle to grave life cycle in a major way: it stops an article of clothing from “dying” and going to its “grave” prematurely by breathing new life into it. Currently, 70% of materials used to make clothing end up in landfills or are incinerated. By buying secondhand clothing, you are skipping over the disposal, raw material extraction, manufacturing, and packaging phases of the cradle to grave life cycle directly to the distribution and use phases. Well, technically, those steps have still already been done—but you’re ensuring that the end product gets more use. By extending a piece of clothing’s life for just 9 months, consumers can reduce their environmental impact (carbon, water, and waste) by 20-30%.
At Merry Go Rounds we believe that resale should be the primary way we consume clothing. The fast fashion industry has turned fashion consumption into a wear and throw away mentality. But, if clothing is made well it can last much longer. And with kids’ clothes, as parents know, there is still so much life left in them after kids grow out of them! Shopping and selling resale extends the life cycle of clothes and prevent them from going to an early “grave”.