Industrial Ecology: Connecting Everyday Activity to Planetary Crisis

Industrial Ecology: Connecting Everyday Activity to Planetary Crisis


Industrial ecology studies how human systems impact nature in a fine-grained manner, revealing with precision just how everyday operations of systems like energy or industry degrade planetary systems for supporting life. “Life Cycle Analysis” analyzes something as prosaic as detergent or a cell phone as an ongoing process from cradle-to-grave with hundreds or thousands of discrete steps, each of which can be measured for a wide array of environmental, health, and social impacts. Those impacts range from particulate emissions or toxic chemicals, to the ill effects of industrial farming, to child labor or sweat shops. These metrics lay bare the formerly hidden ethical consequences of our individual choices, for example, when we shop.

  • Dialogue 23
    8 sessions
  • October 18, 2011
    Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India
  • ML23 Print Program |pdf|
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Greg Norris

Greg Norris, PhD, founded and is executive director of New Earth, a non-profit institute developing and deploying technologies that enable people around the world to drive sustainable development “from the bottom up.” Its projects include Earthster (, an open source sustainable information platform, and the Social Hot Spots Database (, a transparent data source on supply chain impacts and opportunities for improving human rights, working conditions, community and other social impacts. In 1996 Norris founded Sylvatica, an international life cycle assessment institute ( which consults on LCA to the UN, governments in the US and abroad, a variety of Fortune 500 companies, industrial associations, and smaller companies, and the non-profit sector. He is Visiting Professor with the Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas, where he helps the ASC advance the availability of valid and transparent life cycle inventory data. Norris has led the development of the methods, modeling, and software to implement LCA within the US Green Building Council's LEED rating system. Norris teaches LCA at Harvard, and is Adjunct Lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is an editor for the International Journal of LCA and the Journal of Industrial Ecology.