Industrial ecology goals and definitions

Reid Lifset and Thomas E. Graedel

Setting out the goals and boundaries of an emerging field is a hapless task. Set them too conservatively and the potential of the field is thwarted. Set them too expansively and the field loses its distinctive identity. Spend too much time on this task and scarce resources may be diverted from making concrete progress in the field.

But in a field with a name as provocative and oxymoronic as industrial ecology, the description of the goals and definitions is crucial. Hence this introductory chapter describes the field of industrial ecology, identifying its key topics, characteristic approaches and tools. The objective is to provide a map of the endeavors that comprise industrial ecology and how those endeavors relate to each other. In doing so, we seek to provide a common basis of discussion, allowing us then to delve into more conceptual discussions of the nature of the field.

No field has unanimity on goals and boundaries. A field as new and as ambitious as industrial ecology surely has a long way to go to achieve even a measure of consensus on these matters, but, as we hope this chapter shows, there is much that is coalescing in research, analysis and practice.

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