As industrial ecologists, we address the challenges of resource use that drive global environmental change.
Since the 1970s, despite improvements in technologies, global material extraction has tripled while per capita material consumption has nearly doubled, with most of the increase in the non-renewable categories (United Nations Environment, 2016).
Our students and research projects confront sustainability challenges like:
- Rising demand for limited resources;
- Waste and pollution generated, which lead to degradation of ecosystem services and climate change
- Current and predicted global raw material use – especially considering that costs and benefits are not equally distributed (both geographically, as well among present and future generations).
The Waterloo Industrial Ecology Group (WIEG) was founded in June 2016 with a vision to promote collaborative research and teaching. Based on a peer-to-peer learning model, WIEG offers our students and collaborators a vibrant environment and a sense of community to engage in cutting-edge research and debate in the field of industrial ecology. In the Dutch and German languages, “wieg” or “wiege” refers to “cradle” – consistent with the life-cycle perspective and systems thinking we use in industrial ecology.
Industrial ecology is the “study of the flow of materials and energy in industrial and consumer activities, of the effects of these flows on the environment, and of the influences of economic, political, regulatory, and social factors on the flow, use, and transformation of resources” Robert White, President of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (White, 1994).
Industrial ecologists engage with a number of approaches such as material and energy flow analysis, industrial symbiosis, eco-efficiency, life cycle assessment of goods and services, dematerialization and decoupling (International Society for Industrial Ecology [ISIE], 2015)