The Book: sample terrain

23 Jun

I’m reading a book that contains no paper. Whose basic concept is that Waste Equals Food. That can be recycled in one fell swoop. That is waterproof.

How it came to me: after every architect in every story I edited cited it as an influence of the past few years, I went to the library. When I walked out with it, it was raining. I didn’t have to worry about that.

The authors are an American architect and a German chemist, and since the ’90s, they’ve been collaborating on all sorts of projects to rethink industrial practices, hatching harebrained schemes like implanting biodegradable soda bottles with seeds so that they could be tossed aside, decomposing and planting a tree simultaneously.

More thoughts on this later, but for now, here are the authors discussing books, a sampling of the terrain covered:

Let’s imagine a book that is not a tree. It is not even paper. Instead, it is made of plastics developed around a completely different paradigm for materials, polymers that are infinitely recyclable at the same level of quality—that have been designed with their future life foremost in mind….

This ‘paper’ doesn’t require cutting down trees or leaching chlorine into waterways. The inks are nontoxic and can be washed off the polymer with a simple and safe chemical process or an extremely hot water bath, from either of which they can be recovered and reused.

The cover is made from a heavier grade of the same polymer as the rest of the book, and the glues are made of compatible ingredients, so that once the materials are no longer needed in their present form, the entire book can be reclaimed by the publishing industry in a simple, one-step recycling process.

Although its next life has already been imagined, this book is durable enough to last for many generations. It’s even waterproof…. It celebrates its materials rather than apologizing for them.

Books become books become books over and over again, each incarnation a sparkling new vehicle for fresh images and ideas. Form follows not just function but the evolution of the medium itself, in the endlessly propagating spirit of the printed word.

This is not the recycled mantra of an environmentalist or the endless arguments of an academic. The men writing here know intimately the materials, processes, and products they condemn, and they have the knowledge and skills sets to literally invent something else, something new.

Their description of ‘books becoming books becoming books’ sounds like fantasy, until you take a moment and realize that the book you are holding is in fact the beginning of that reality.

Excerpt from Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.

3 Responses to “The Book: sample terrain”

  1. Brian June 24, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    I would be interested in holding and using a book like that.

  2. readzebra June 24, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    k.c. public library


  1. The Ant: sample terrain « Re(a)dZebra - June 30, 2010

    […] Re(a)dZebra don’t light a signal fire, wiggle your toes… « The Book: sample terrain […]

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