I just read this fantastic book, and I wanted to share some thoughts.  The book is Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough & Michael Braungart.  They propose a new industrial system which accounts for the entire life cycle of a product down to the molecule.  Their idea is basically that products should be designed and built from the get-go so that their components and materials can be easily separated and recycled into equally useful materials (vs. the current, system, what they call "downcycling").  You can read more about it here - I recommend reading the book, which isn't even made of paper.

The book got me thinking hard about 3bags and how their methods could be applied.  I don't pretend that the materials I use are recyclable in the Cradle to Cradle way - I don't think such a material exists yet (if it does, let me know!).  What I do get out of my materials is durability - and lots of it.  Cordura lasts.  It's strong, abrasion resistant and water resistant.  A raw edge won't even fray easily.  I've designed my bags with long lasting durability in mind.  I want the bag to last and be versatile and functional enough that it remains useful for years and years.  I do still worry about what happens when the bag is no longer useful, and after reading Cradle to Cradle I've started working on this problem.  Here are some of my ideas:

  • No (Low) waste policy - I've been working hard on my patterns to reduce the amount of scraps from cutting.  I've even re sized pockets and features to reduce scraps - in most cases down to zero.
  • Repairs - I can patch tears, fix busted seams and replace broken hardware in order to extend the life of the bag.
  • Unwanted bags - if your bag is still perfectly functional, you're just looking for something new, you can return the old bag and get a discount towards a new one.  I can then sell the old bag at reduced price.
  • Bags beyond repair - I'll even collect bags which are destroyed, and not easily repaired.  Through my design process I've taken a lot of bags apart and put them back together again, with no apparent loss of strength.  I've rebuilt my original backpack about 5 times now, and it's still going strong (and that one's made of 500d Cordura).  I want to run some more tests to see how a seam is affected by being ripped out and stitched over again, but it is possible for me to rebuild bags to make them functional again (I'd sell these at reduced price as well)
  • Salvage Materials - Once the seams do die completely, I can still just cut them off and use the salvaged materials to make something new.  Buckles, hooks and webbing can be reused as well.

I haven't put any of these ideas into practice yet outside of my own prototypes, but I thought I'd share them.  If you have any suggestions or thoughts, I would love to hear them.