The field of industrial ecology seeks to provide definite answers to such questions as whether it's better to read a book in paper or electronic form or whether garbage dumps might become more efficient sources of some metals than mines. By tracking energy and material flows and producing product life-cycle assessments, researchers in the field attempt to take a systems perspective on environmental concerns.
Three leaders in the field, affiliated with the Center for Industrial Ecology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, join a discussion with Qn magazine on the emergence of the field in the last few decades and what this has added to our understanding of sustainability. Marian Chertow '81 is associate professor of industrial environmental management. Thomas E. Graedel is Clifton R. Musser Professor of Industrial Ecology and the director of the Center for Industrial Ecology. Reid J. Lifset '89 is resident fellow in industrial ecology and editor-in-chief of theJournal of Industrial Ecology.