Today I was thrilled by something Bill McDonough helped write in 1991. Thought I’d share it:

The Hanover Principles of Sustainable Design

In 1991, I was commissioned by the town of Hanover, Germany, along with my firm and friends, to write the Hanover Principles. The same culture that created the worst of human intentions—the Germans had gone to a deeply dark place in the 40s—was asking what would the best of human intentions look like. And so we wrote these principles:

1) Insist on the rights of humanity and nature to coexist. This is not please hope that they will.

2) Recognize interdependence. Expand design consideration to recognize even distant effects.

3) Respect the relationship between spirit and matter.

Now the Germans tried to get rid of this one. It was number 8 at the time. I said, wait a minute, all the native people who looked at this said there was only one principle and it was this one. The rest come form here. So why don’t we make it number 5. They said, you don’t understand, we’re trying to remove it. It’s too fuzzy. I said, why don’t we make it number 3. Do you see where we are going? They said, OK, number 3, It’s fine. So there it is: number 3.

I work for businesses, and I remember calling the Chairman of Monsanto to say that we need a conference on the ethics of genetic engineering and he asked why does the spirit-matter connection matter? Well think about this from a business perspective. If you cross bt with plants in soy and so on, what have you done? You crossed the animal kingdom with the plant kingdom, something that God never tried to do. At what point is the world’s largest market, Hindu, unable to eat American food? When can you no longer be a vegetarian? That’s a business question. Six weeks later, they started burning Monsanto crops in India.

How about the human genone project? Do you know that they put the human genone into swine to get medical serum for humans. That’s very interesting. What happens to the pigs? Did you eat human genone for breakfast this morning? Do you think someone might want to ask you if you want to be a cannibal? Does it matter?

4) Accept responsibility for the consequences of design.

5) Create safe objects of long-term value. Don’t tyrannize the future.

6) Eliminate the concept of waste. I think this is the one that rang true for most people. This is not minimize waste. This is not efficiency. Remember this is 1991. This is before Factor 4. This was when eco-efficiency was about to be launched at the Earth Summit. Instead, this is to eliminate the whole concept of waste.

7) Rely on natural energy flows. Nature doesn’t mortgage the past or the future.

8) Understand the limitations of design. Be humble

9) Seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge.



The whole paper is brilliant.