A uniform definition and quantitative basis for industrial ecology

T. P. Seager, T. L. Theis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Industrial ecology (IE) has been characterized by a fragmented approach encompassing a number of different perspectives and analytical techniques. A uniform framework has yet to be established or proposed. This paper partially addresses this shortcoming by tracing some of the historical and intellectual antecedents of the field, providing a clear and concise lexicon of the biological analogue, and contrasting the two most promising analytical methods by which IE research may be carried out: life cycle assessment (LCA) and systems analysis. Although a number of comparative environmental metrics may be employed in cost-minimization or thermodynamic efficiency studies, no single measure is sufficiently developed to prioritize among qualitatively disparate types of environmental impacts. It is argued herein that the concept of chemical exergy of mixing may be the most promising basis for the development of a uniform, broad-based measure of chemical pollution, and that such a measure could significantly advance a scientific approach to IE. Some theoretical background is presented, although the reasoning herein is intended to be accessible to an interdisciplinary audience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-235
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Environmental metrics
  • Exergy
  • Industrial ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Building and Construction
  • General Environmental Science
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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