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Human Ecology: Industrial Ecology

Listed author(s):
  • Faye Duchin


    (Department of Economics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy NY 12180-3590, USA)

  • Stephen H. Levine


    (Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Tufts University, 113 Anderson Hall, Medford, MA 02155, USA)

Industrial Ecology aims to inform decision making about the environmental impacts of industrial production processes by tracking and analyzing resource use and flows of industrial products, consumer products and wastes. Quantifying the patterns of use of materials and energy in different societies is one area of research in Industrial Ecology. An extensive literature is devoted in particular to Material Flow Analysis (MFA), the collection of data describing the flows of specific materials from sources to sinks within some portion of the global industrial system. Industrial Ecologists are also concerned with the system-wide environmental impacts associated with products. Design for the Environment involves the design or redesign of specific products so as to reduce their impacts, while Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) quantifies resource use and emissions per unit of product from material extraction to the eventual disposal of the product. The LCA community has created a significant body of best-practice methods and shared data and increasingly incorporates their analyses within input-output models of entire economies to capture that portion of the impact that would otherwise be overlooked. Input-output models, often incorporating both MFA and LCA data, analyze the effects on the environment of alternative consumption and production decisions. Industrial Ecology makes use of this array of top-down and bottom-up approaches, all of which are grounded in its origins in the ecology of the industrial system.

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Paper provided by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Department of Economics in its series Rensselaer Working Papers in Economics with number 0603.

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Date of creation: Feb 2006
Handle: RePEc:rpi:rpiwpe:0603
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