What is Industrial Ecology?
There is not really a definition. It's a new emerging multidisciplinary field which studies the material and energy flows in industry and other human systems, with the aim to make them as sustainable possible. With sustainable, I refer to the triple bottom line approach: environmental, social and economical sustainable, which are interlinked (and no trade off necessary in my opinion; if you reduce for example your energy use, you reduce your environmental impact but also cut your costs). Later I give some examples of classes to point out that we combine insights and knowledge of different disciplines. We go for the holistic and systematic approach of looking at the world.
For more information about "Industrial Ecology": watch how my fellow students in Graz and I explain what is it and what isn't:
A Multidisciplinary field and Industrial Ecology Tools
Here are the titlesof several courses:
- Evaluation and Integration of Systems: lecture & seminars
- Environmental and Technical Assessments
- Bioreferineries (ok, this was not the title, but that's how I would call it)
- Environmental Decision making
- Value Chain Management
- Consumption of Spaces
- Climate Systems and Modelling
So, it's a combination of geography, system science, innovation management, behavioural science and other fields. We also learnt about typical industrial ecology tools like Life Cycle Assessment, Material Flow Analysis, Sustainability Balanced Score card etc.
Analogy with the ecology
I believe that the new business models should look to the nature, because nature did experiments for billions of years and are the masters of resource efficiency and avoiding waste. In European directives, you find these words back (look to the waste hierarchy of 2008, words like "circular economy")... and for a very good reason! The planet has boundaries and there is scientific evidence that we are challenging these boundaries. When you look to ecosystems on a smaller scale, you can see that when you cross a boundary, a threshold, that the whole system can go to another equilibrium, which is not always the best equilibrium for us. That is why my field is called "industrial ecology", because we get our inspiration from nature. Also "Blue Economy", "Circular Economy"... are emerging concepts (in European policy and business world) which are inspired by nature. In later blogs I'll introduce ideas like biomimicry etc.
For more information about the Erasmus Mundus Master Programme: visit the website