Ever since I first heard him mention it, I’ve been wondering when Bill McDonough’s "Cradle to Cradle Certification" program was going to become a reality. I think it has huge potential to become for product design what LEED has become for green building (though probably, as Jamais cautions, more slowly and fitfully).
Cradle to cradle is a biomimetic approach to design, wherein every material used can either be returned to the earth to biodegrade without harm (a biological nutrient) or can return to the manufacturing cycle with no loss of quality (a technical nutrient). In short: no waste. Or rather, in C2C terminology: waste is food. A great primer on biomimicry can also be found at WC.
The certification …
… covers five categories (PDF): Materials (including assessment and emissions); Material Reutilization/Design for Environment (including product recovery plans); Energy (including an emphasis on solar energy use); Water (including plans for conservation and quality); and Social Responsibility (including corporate ethics statements and third-party social responsibility assessments). The overview linked above is a basic checklist; the Application Form (PDF) has the full details on what’s required for each step of the certification process.
Look for C2C product on shelves near you! Uh, some day.