n. The portion of a product's life cycle from inception to the point where it leaves the manufacturer.
Salt Spring Coffee's French Roast Nicaragua is carbon neutral from cradle to gate. This means that the company has bought enough carbon credits to offset all the carbon produced until the consumer buys the coffee. That's only 37 per cent of the carbon created by one bag of coffee. After that, it's up to the consumer to pick up the slack.
—Rebecca Lindell, “You want cream, sugar or carbon credits with that?,” The Globe and Mail, June 29, 2010
This paper aims to identify and quantify the environmental impacts associated to Eucalyptus TCF pulp manufacture by using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as an analytical tool. The system has been defined using a cradle-to-gate perspective, that is to say from forest activities to the exit gate of the pulp mill.
—Sara Gonzalez-Garcia, et al., “Environmental impact assessment of total chlorine free pulp from Eucalyptus globulus in Spain” (PDF), Journal of Cleaner Production, February 13, 2009
1993 (earliest)
Furthermore, environmental burdens of 'upstream' processes such as ammonia and electricity generation were included in the study, but downstream processes using nitric acid were not. The study was therefore 'cradle-to-gate', rather than the more comprehensive 'cradle-to-grave' analysis.
—Jack Eisenhauer, Environmental Considerations in Process Design and Simulation, The Center, January 01, 1993
The "gate" here is the factory gate, so cradle-to-gate refers to everything that happens with a product until it's ready to ship. This means the usage in the Globe and Mail citation is slightly inaccurate because cradle-to-gate doesn't include shipping to the retailer and retailer storage.

Cradle-to-gate is based on the much older phrase cradle-to-grave, which refers to a product's entire life cycle and which has been in the language since at least 1943.
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