An Indigo Paper  on Industrial Ecology

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Defining Industrial Ecology

Reconciling a diversity of definitions

IE is still in a formative stage, with a diversity of definitions and understandings of scope of application. A consensus is emerging around certain key themes, however, there are critical areas of divergence among industrial ecologists. The following discussion is based upon our content analysis of over twenty-five definitions, supported by a similar analysis by researchers at University of Michigan.

Common themes -- an emerging consensus?

The majority of discussions of industrial ecology tend to agree on the following elements.

Industrial Ecology will interact with other fields such as ecological economics and environmental accounting, in creating the foundation for sustainable development.

Areas of divergence

While there is a fair degree of consensus on the elements of industrial ecology just listed, there is also much divergence as to its scope and emphasis. In part this is simply a matter of specialization within the field. But the following differences often go the heart of how different researchers define IE.

Industrial Ecology is both a field of scientific research and a framework for design and decision-making in public and private sectors. These two aspects should be seen as complementary rather than divergent. They need to be closely inter-related to insure a sound basis for developing applications and continuing research on the results of IE-based projects.

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