The second relates to its application primarily to manufacturing, where industrial ecology has been defined variously as "…a new approach to the industrial design of products and processes and the implementation of sustainable manufacturing strategies" (Jelinski et al., 1992), as "… the totality or the pattern of relationships between various industrial activities, their products, and the environment" (Patel, 1992), as "designing industrial infrastructures as if they were a series of interlocking systems" (Tibbs, 1991), and "the network of all industrial processes as they may interact with each other and live off each other, not only in the economic sense but also in the sense of the direct use of each other's energy and material wastes'' (Ausubel, 1992).

The third broadens the definition of industrial ecology to establish links to sustainable development and implies that

Industrial ecology is the means by which humanity can deliberately and rationally approach and maintain a desirable carrying capacity, given continued economic, cultural, and technological evolution. The concept requires that an industrial system by viewed not in isolation from its surrounding systems, but in concert with them. It is a systems view in which one seeks to optimize the total materials cycle from virgin material, to finished material, to component, to product, to obsolete product, and to ultimate disposal. Factors to be optimized include resources, energy, and capital (Graedel and Allenby, 1995).

Finally, there is the non-normative definition that characterizes industrial ecology as "the complex mutual relations between human activities of industry and its surrounding environment" (Watanabe, 1993) or as "the study of the flows of material and energy in industrial activities, of the effects of these flows on the environment, and of the influences of economic, political, regulatory, and social factors on the flow, use, and transformation of resources" (White, 1994).

All the definitions share one common concern: the integration of environmental considerations in decision making to reduce the environmental impacts of production and consumption.


Over the last several years, the National Academy of Engineering has, through its program on Technology and Environment, explored technology's impact on the environment through its role in production and consumption. Recent efforts in this area have focused on technology transfer (Cross-Border Technology Transfer to Eliminate Ozone-Depleting Substance, 1992); the relationship between science and environmental regulation and its effect on technological innovation (Keeping Pace with Science and Engineering: Case Studies In Environmental Regulation, 1993); industrial ecology and design for the environment (The Greening of Industrial Ecosystems, 1994); corporate environmental practice (Corporate Environmental Practices: Climbing the Learning Curve, 1994); The United State's and Japan's interest in industrial ecology (Industrial Ecology: U.S./Japan Perspectives, 1994); linkages between natural ecosystem conditions and engineering (Engineering Within Ecological Constraints, 1996); design and management of production and consumption systems for environmental quality (The Industrial Green Game: Implications for Environmental Design and Management, 1997); the diffusion patterns of environmentally critical technologies and their effect on the changing habitability of the planet (Technological Trajectories and the Human Environment, 1997); and the impact of services industries on the environment (exploratory workshops held in December 1994 and June 1995).


Most economic growth and environmental quality concerns relate to pollution intensity and depletion of natural resources. Some see growth as a threat to the carrying capacity of the planet—an argument that infuriates the developing world, which sees in such arguments attempts to limit growth. The growth/no-growth debate, however, is too narrowly defined. The

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