Designing Products Toward Sustainability with Tom Darden

Product Description
$ 1.99

MP3 Download

Tom Darden and others like him are seriously looking at products that have positive environmental effects. He’s been able to help companies, such as sawmills, to change the way they produce their products. He’s been working in the field of investing in developing technology, products, and services that are environmentally safe. One of his personal interests is connecting companies with China to help address environmental problems there. He is also on the board of directors of Cradle To Cradle Products Innovation Institute and is enthusiastic about the products certification service that has been set up to help companies became more green and consumers to be more discerning of the products they buy. He says of this endeavor, “To be certified under the cradle to cradle parameters, they have to have figured out the reverse logistics. Everybody figures out the logistics of the product going out but we need companies to say, how are we going to get it back?” The cradle to cradle philosophy standard would be a product you could consistently make, generation after generation, and all of the waste of that product would be food in the next cycle. He describes being able to capture that “food” as either technical nutrients or biological nutrients, with the technological ones staying in a closed system so as not to pollute the biological ones. This is being done now by many companies. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Tom Darden is the Chief Executive Officer of Cherokee Fund, an investment company that blends capital with creativity. Cherokee is involved with pollution remediation, ground improvements, and implementing sustainable design measures and green building at their sites which include some large scale projects. Cherokee has over 15 years of experience in cleaning up, revitalizing, and reclaiming brownfields. He serves on the Boards of Woodberry Forest School, Shaw University and the University of North Carolina's environmental department and is a board member of Cradle To Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

To find out more about Tom Darden’s work go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • Why there is no constraint on pollution and carbon emissions
  • How the early interest in environmental issues got dashed
  • How his company buys polluted land sites and cleans them with safe environmental products like bacteria
  • How toxic eating bacteria is being used to clean up toxic waste dumps
  • How he’s working in China in land pollution
  • Why it is important to divide products recycling systems into biological and technical nutrients
  • What is meant by reverse logistics of the cradle to cradle concept of making products
  • How Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute became a fully independent certification organization
  • What is the unique structure of the Chinese government and its relationship to business

Host: Justine Willis Toms     Interview Date: 11/15/2012     Program Number: 3456