Industrial Ecology

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"Industrial ecology examines local, regional and global materials and energy uses and flows in products, processes, industrial sectors and economies. It focuses on the potential role of industry in reducing environmental burdens throughout the product life cycle from the extraction of raw materials, to the production of goods, to the use of those goods and to the management of the resulting wastes. Industrial ecology is ecological in that it (1) views human activity—industry in the very broadest sense—in the larger context of the biophysical environment with which we exchange energy and material flows, and (2) looks to the natural world for models of highly efficient use of resources, energy and byproducts. Topics include material and energy flows studies ("industrial metabolism"), dematerialization and decarbonization, life cycle planning, design and assessment, design for the environment, extended producer responsibility ("product stewardship"), eco-industrial parks ("industrial symbiosis"), and product-oriented environmental policy." (


"Industrial ecology (IE) has been defined as “the study of all interactions between industrial systems and the environment” (Graedel 1994, 23) and “the science of sustainability” (Ehrenfeld 2004, 1). It is about “things connected to other things,” a “systems-based, multidisciplinary discourse that seeks to understand emergent behavior of complex integrated human/natural systems” (Allenby 2006, 33) that can be thought to be composed of interacting technical and social networks (Dijkema and Basson 2009, 159) embedded in the biosphere. By using this holistic systems view, we hope not only to understand but also to shape the linkages between the economy, social concerns, and environment, in order to guide the world toward sustainability." (

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