Industrial Ecology and Design: a toolkit for designing sustainable systems


Weslynne Ashton, Ph.D., Illinois Institute of Technology – Stuart School of Business
Carlos Teixeira, Ph.D., Illinois Institute of Technology – Institute of Design
Mr. Andre Nogueira, Illinois Institute of Technology – Institute of Design
Marian Chertow, Ph.D., Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies


In our current economic system, we “take, use and waste” the earth’s resources to satisfy the needs of the growing human population across the globe. How can we use these resources more sensibly, in order to sustain our growing population? The concept of a circular economy advocates for moving our economic activities away wastefulness, towards conservation, reuse and recycling. It also suggests that we ought to have an equitable distribution of natural and financial resources within societies and that we ought to value and grow the human resources in our societies. By examining how seven types of resources, or capitals, interact in diverse economic units – from factories to regions, we aim to develop systems that are stronger, more durable and meet the needs of a diverse population.  

In this session, we introduce the concept of circular economy, its promises and its challenges, and explore how related concepts, like industrial symbiosis, make local production networks stronger, or more resilient, by linking companies from different industries. We also utilize design research tools to help participants learn how to apply concepts of the circular economy and seven capitals in their own contexts in order to develop sustainable solutions.

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