Open Source & Free Access Towards a Circular Economy

Recently i was in touch with someone from the Cradle to Cradle (c2c) Institute. And i used the chance to ask about the postive list of chemicals fit for regenerative (and therefor circular) product-designs they have. In his very inspirational TED-Talk from 2005 (10 years ago!) the c2c founder William McDonough mentions a positive list they created of 7000 materials you can use for regenerative designs. And he announces that they will publish this list – “next week” (in 2005). The audience goes crazy and applauds. Of course!

Well, sadly this never happened. And in the last years I heard and read a lot of people asking for that data base. Because it could really make a difference!

Cradle to Cradle could have made much more progress and impact in the last decade if they had published this as William McDonough promised in his talk. I am sure. I know a lot of people who would have created regenerative designs and still would do it, if they just had the necessary information. But they did not and do not because of a lack of information.

Why closed?

So why is this data base not open? Why was it never published?

There are a number of reasons I guess, but the person from the c2c institute I was talking to said, that Copyright was one of the problems. Many people were part of creating that database and it was impossible to track back, who did what and therefore owns what. But you need to know this, when you want to publish the data base.

There is a big lesson to learn for everyone: watch the copyrights! And Open Source projects show us how how to handle this: Make it clear to every contributor what license the project is under! When you contribute to Wikipedia, you automatically agree, that everything you do is published under a Creative-Commons-Attribution-Share-Alike-License. And so everybody can use the Wikipedia as a shared resource and can edit it further.

A lost chance for c2c

I think this is a lost chance for c2c – for its growth rate and business model! Because an open database would have enabled so many people. The network could have grown exponentially. And most of the people would have needed experts to help them understanding and using that information, and experts who certify the results of regenerative product development. Decentralized growth!

This lost chance is really really sad. Because it is not just a lost chance for c2c, but for the world. Maybe we could have many many more regenerative designs and infrastructures for it by now. 10 years ago there were no smartphones, now everyone has one! Or think about the Open Source Ecoystem of WordPress, that started 2 years earlier in 2003 and is now the secret operating system of the internet. Huge growth with an open source approach.

How to solve it?

I don’t know how to solve this. How to open source this data base? I am no legal expert. And I am not sure, how good this data base really is. But on the question, how to open source it… maybe this could be one of the challenges for the OSCEdays. A real good one!

How to open source this? Why? And how to apply a good business model to it?