Industrial Ecology: Moving beyond Traditional Engineering Borders

Jun 14, 2010 | Atlanta, GA

The Spring 2010 issue of Society of Women Engineers magazine featured an article titled “Industrial Ecology: Moving beyond Traditional Engineering Borders.”  In the article, Valerie Thomas, Anderson Interface Associate Professor of Natural Systems in the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, discusses how a bag of potato chips illustrates the far-reaching implications of industrial ecology.

 Factors like cost and consumer appeal affect most decisions about making and buying products.  Industrial ecology introduces another perspective. A bag of potato chips, according to Thomas, involves decisions about growing potatoes, the materials to make the bag, and where the waste from the potatoes and bag goes.  She clarified, "Consumption and production affect not just the immediate use of products but have a past and a future.  Products do not appear out of nothing and they do not disappear when we throw them away."

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  • Valerie Thomas

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Barbara Christopher
Industrial and Systems Engineering