When William McDonough and Michael Braungart wrote the highly influential “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” more than 10 years ago, it opened up a whole new way of thinking in terms of sustainable architecture and product design. On the heels of the release of their follow-up book “The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability–Designing for Abundance,” I had a chance to sit down with McDonough at the Healthcare Design Conference to discuss his sustainable design philosophy and what it means to healthcare facility planners and designers, specifically.

Cradle to Cradle product certification used to be a proprietary program, but in 2010, it was released into the public domain. McDonough’s chemists have since trained 13 other firms around the world to conduct Cradle to Cradle assessments. If you’re not completely familiar with the concept—and how it’s different from “cradle to grave” thinking—McDonough explains it nicely in the video below. It’s an intriguing idea, and I appreciate his perspective on avoiding knee-jerk approaches and generalizations when it comes to defining “good” versus “bad.”

For example, while efforts to reduce the negative effects of your building (or your product) on the environment are certainly a good start, McDonough says, that’s not enough. “Being less bad is not being good,” he says. “’Less’ is a relationship; ‘bad’ is a human value. So being less bad means you’re, by definition, ‘bad.’ Just less so. So the real question becomes, How can I be good?”

McDonough (who was feeling under the weather, but remained a trooper throughout our interview), was speaking at the conference on behalf of Patcraft, with whom he recently collaborated on a carpet tile collection called Butterfly Effect.

Watch the short video (around 6 minutes long) for more of our conversation, and let me know what you think about McDonough’s message—and whether or not you think it’s truly achievable in our industry.