Special issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology focuses on eco-efficiency

Disputes over the trade-off between the environment and the economy are a central feature of contemporary politics. Whether the threat is global warming or toxic substances, the tension between cost and environmental benefit is often palpable.

Some of these disagreements can be avoided through better understanding of eco-efficiency--the actual value of an investment or expenditure on environmental improvements. Eco-efficiency is the focus of a special issue of Yale's Journal of Industrial Ecology, which offers path-breaking analysis of this key concept.

"Through calculations of eco-efficiency, our grasp of the relationship between cost and environmental value can be sharpened," said Gus Speth, Dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies at Yale. "The research in this issue represents a major advance in this important tool."

Articles in the special issue examine how eco-efficiency can be used as a practical tool for analysis and as a framework for making difficult choices. The eco-efficiency of activities and choices--for production and consumption, and even for economic sectors and regions--can be quantified. Central developments described in this special issue include less-contested ways to quantify the environmental impact of activities, with articles on data envelopment analysis and the maximum abatement cost method.

"This special issue demonstrates the power of industrial ecology," says Reid Lifset, editor-in-chief of the Journal. "Concepts that lie at the core of this field, such as dematerialization, design-for-environment and life-cycle management, can be consistently combined with economic analysis, helping us to understand much better the pivotal role the economy-environment tradeoff plays in shaping the quality of our environment."

Using these techniques, journal contributors examined eco-efficiency in small businesses in South Korea; in the UK steel and aluminum industries; of a region in Finland; of different options for solid waste management; and of different parts of the same firm. Other articles examine sustainable value creation by firms, the role of eco-efficiency in corporate planning and investment, and the eco-efficiency of advanced loop closing (recycling) techniques in Japan.

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Gjalt Huppes, professor at CML and head of the Department of Industrial Ecology at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and Masanobu Ishikawa, professor of Environmental and Economic Systems Analysis at Kobe University in Japan, served as guest editors. Funding for the issue was provided by Ebara Corporation. The articles in the special issue are available in electronic form at http://mitpress.mit.edu/JIE/ecoefficiency.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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