Abiotic raw materials

are all materials which are extracted directly from nature, are not renewable and not yet processed, including extracted materials which are not used (for example mining waste, excavated material from constructing a basement or a house, other excavated materials, etc.).


is included in the MIPS concept if it is changed in its chemical or physical characteristics.

Auxiliary materials

are materials which are involved in a process but merely fulfill an auxiliary function (for example release agents).



Basic materials and building materials

are materials or substances which are employed in a process (for example, steel, PVC or glass).

Biotic raw materials

are all organic materials extracted directly from nature, for example, soilage, mushrooms, trees, fish, wild animals, unprocessed cotton.



Capacity utilization

denotes the actual use of the volume or the capacity for which a good is designed (for example, a fully-occupied car, a half-filled dishwasher).


in the language of economics denotes the total assets of money, machinery, facilities, as well as land. To describe monetary assets only, the term financial capital is used.

Capital productivity

is the amount of goods and services produced per unit of capital employed. If the same product can be produced in the same quantity and quality on two different machines which have different prices, then capital productivity is higher if the cheaper machine is purchased.

COPS (Cost Per Unit of Service)

refers to the monetary costs for a defined service (a defined unit of utility or service) which is rendered either on a person-to-person basis or by machines (for example, dispensing cash by an automated teller machine).


are natural and technical material flows which return to their original state at their point of origin. There are no technical cycles without losses.




The diminution in use of natural resources for generating material wealth by technical means.




includes all movements of earth caused by technology in the construction, agriculture, and forestry sectors, in other words, overburdens, plowed earth, erosion, etc.


means the delivery of competitively priced goods and services which satisfy human needs and produce quality of life while progressively reducing ecological impacts and resource intensity, through the life cycle, to a level at least in line with the earth's estimated carrying capacity (following Frank Bosshardt, Business Council for Sustainable Development, 1991).


is that part of industry which conducts eco-innovation in a pro-active and verifiable manner, including businesses that provide new solutions for legal standards, norms, and requirements.


means the creation of novel and competitively priced goods, processes, systems, services, and procedures that can satisfy human needs and bring quality of life to all people with a life-cycle-wide minimal use of natural resources (material including energy carriers, and surface area) per unit output, and a minimal release of toxic substances. INNOVA EUROPE Report of the EU Commission, 2008

Eco-intelligent (eco-efficient)

service is the purpose oriented generation of utility within the technosphere by employing technical means with the highest possible resource productivity and the lowest possible emissions of harmful substances.

Ecological price

encompasses the entire material input or the material added value in units of weight from the cradle of the resources to the product when it is ready to be sold and to provide a service. It is the ecological rucksack of the product plus the product's weight.

Ecological rucksack of a product

is defined as its material input from cradle to the point of sale, MI (including energy) minus its own weight (own mass). Unit: kilograms, metric tons.

Ecological rucksack of a service

is the sum of the shares of the rucksacks of the technical means employed (for example, equipment, vehicles, and buildings), plus the sum of its share of materials and energy used while the technical means are employed.


is mankind's natural environment.


The effectiveness with which means are introduced into an existing process in order to attain a defined output (see, in contrast: productivity).


are contaminations of the air, noises, vibrations, light, heat, radiation, and similar energetic or material phenomena which come from a facility, a vehicle or piece of equipment.


carriers are materials of all aggregate states which yield thermal energy (for example mineral oil, oil sands, coal or firewood).


encompasses animals, plants, microorganisms, water, air, and soils as well as all the interactions between them.

Environmental capital

is a metaphor for describing the stock of natural resources. This term is somewhat strange from a natural science point of view. Nothing can be removed from nature or even moved within nature by technology without changing its functions and thus the life-sustaining services of nature. The marked prices for abiotic and biotic raw materials, water, soil and air are not reflecting what economists call environmental “externalities”, and most likely they never will, because removing resources from their natural position causes inevitably changes of environmental services, changes that are rarely predictable with scientific methods, nor can they ever be completely measured, stimulated, qualified, quantified, or localized.
Perhaps the term “environmental capital” is useful when discussing the issue of quantities of natural resources remaining in place for future generations. But this can meaningfully be computed only in terms of kg or tons.

Environmental changes (e. g. climatic change)

are the consequence of human impacts on the services of nature by setting flows of natural material in motion or denaturalizing surfaces.
The environmental media are soil, water, and air.

Environmental Protection

is the maintenance of the life-sustaining services of nature

Environmental stress potential

is the capacity of a process, a good or a service to cause changes in environmental services. It is modeled approximately by MIPS.

External environmental effects (externalities)

Unintended and typically negative (cost-inducing) effects of goods, processes, systems, services, and behaviors which become effective via environmental media. Frequently, the costs of such external effects must be borne by the general public. An external effect of smoking, for example, is health problems due to second-hand smoke. An external effect of fossil fuel use is damage to historic buildings on account of air pollution.



Factor 4

is the goal of dematerializing the material design of human well-being on average by a factor of four, as an interim step on the way to sustainability.

Factor 10

is a metaphor for the strategic economic goal of approaching sustainability by increasing the overall resource productivity tenfold on the average in industrialized countries. It has been suggested that by 2050 the world-wide per capita consumption of non-renewable resources should not exceed 5-6 tones annually. Accordingly, Germany should dematerialize its economy by a factor of ten, whereas Japan by a factor of 6, the United States would need to reach a factor of 15 and Finland a factor 19, based on present per capita consumption of natural resources. Many experts are convinced that without radical dematerialization in advanced countries, sustainability cannot be reached.

Factor X and Factor Y

are variations on Factor 10, with the purpose of indicating the unavoidable uncertainty in individual cases regarding how far dematerialization can and must go.


(in German: Flächeninput pro Einheit Service, surface area per unit of service) is a robust and directionally reliable indicator for the comparison of functionally comparable goods or services regarding their surface area requirements. A quantitative measure for the "use of natural surface area" per unit of utility or unit of service. The "ecological surface area price" for utility.





are machines, products, equipment, objects, means of transport, buildings, infrastructures (including works of art and musical instruments).

Greenhouse effect

Sunlight falls on the earth's surface, where it is transformed into warmth and partly reflected towards outer space. Some constituent parts of the earth's atmosphere, especially water vapor and carbon dioxide, are involved in the process of capturing part of this warmth. If this natural greenhouse effect did not exist, the Earth's average temperature would not be fifteen degrees Centigrade, but as cold as minus eighteen or nineteen degrees Centigrade. Mankind is currently changing the relative amounts of important greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone. As a result, the man-made greenhouse effect is added to the natural greenhouse effect, changing the Earth's climate.




denotes the basic installations or substructure on which the continuity and the growth of an economy rest, such as roads, schools, transportation and information networks.


includes everything which is employed in a process. In the MIPS concept, the inputs are materials (including all materials necessary to provide energy).



Life cycle-wide

means encompassing all phases of a product's life, that is, resource extraction, production, distribution, storage, use, and recycling/disposal.



Material flows

as defined in the MIPS concept are all movements of materials in the ecosphere and the technosphere by technical means.

Material input (MI)

The totality of natural materials that are moved and extracted by technical means from their natural places in order to manufacture a product or provide a service. MI also includes all natural materials that are needed to make the necessary energy available. MI is measured in tons or kg

MI factors or rucksack factors (MIF)

are the material intensity values for individual materials (raw, basic, and building materials) . Unit: kilogram per kilogram or kilogram per megajoule etc.


(material input per unit of service) is the life cycle-wide input of natural material (MI) which is employed in order to fulfill a human desire or need (S) by technical means.


is a robust and directionally reliable indicator for directly comparing functionally comparable goods or services regarding their material or energy requirements. MIPS (= MI/S) is a quantitative measure for the "use of natural materials and energy" or the "ecological materials and energy price" per unit of utility or per unit of service. MI is given in kilograms (or tons); S has no dimension and must therefore be defined stringently for each individual case (for example 'cleaning five kilograms of clothing' or 'transporting one person for a distance of one kilometer').
MIPS = material input per unit of service = ecological total costs (referring to materials and energy use) for using a service unit provided by a service machine = ecological costs of use for a product = the subsidy provided by the environment per unit of service = a measure for resource productivity of services.





A unit of measurement, the prefix 'nano' means 'one billionth.'

Natural location

of resources is the place where they are found in nature and from where they are removed for further processing (for crushing limestone).



Operating materials

are materials that serve to carry out processes, but are not present in the resulting product (for example, cleaning and cooling agents).

Output encompasses

everything that results from a process, a procedure or a behavior. Output need not be material in nature; enjoyment and pleasure can also be outputs.




The number of people transported multiplied by the distance in kilometers yields the number of person-kilometers (pkm). A unit of measurement for transportation performance. Transporting one person over a distance of one kilometer means transportation performance of one person-kilometer. In this sense, the transportation performance is the same if two people are transported over a distance of one kilometer each or if one person is transported over a distance of two kilometers.


are procedures or techniques in which inputs are intentionally transformed into at least one output (for example, shaped sheet metal, a chemical, or enjoyment of a painting).


are usable result of a technical or natural process.

Serviceable products (Service delivery machines)

are goods that were produced for use or consumption and that can provide utility by being used (for example, robots, sundials, automobiles, mousetraps, spoons, oil paintings). In addition, there are non-serviceable goods, such as bars of gold or aluminum profiles.

Industrial products

are foods, medicines, infrastructures, machines, equipment, tools, instruments, vehicles, and buildings produced with technical means in the technosphere.

Natural product

are gases, liquids or solids produced by nature when appropriate materials, energy, water, and nutrients interact.


yield of production of goods or services. While efficiency describes the effectiveness of the use of the available means, productivity measures the result, in other words, the yield of products and services, regardless of which means were employed to obtain the result.

Productivity of labor

A term to denote the amount of products or services which can be produced with a given amount of work, that is, within a given period of time by a given number of people, usually by employing technology. Therefore, productivity of labor is the amount of goods or services produced per hour and per person working. Productivity can be increased by boosting efficiency, that is, if available means of production are exploited in an optimal fashion. But as a rule, much greater increases can be achieved by employing entirely new production methods (machines, organization of work, management).


is not to be confused with material wealth. Prosperity also includes health, freedom from fear, displacement, and social marginalization, as well as the opportunity for self-determination, freedom of opinion, and the inviolability of the dignity of the individual insofar as one bears complete responsibility for one's own decisions.



Resource productivity

is the amount of goods and services which can be produced per unit of input of resources (materials, surface area, energy).


as defined in the MIPS concept are all naturally available abiotic and biotic raw materials, water, soil, land, and non-material forms of energy that can be used to create goods and services



Service (technically provided service)

is the purpose-oriented generation of utility within the technosphere by employing technical means. All man-made services require the use of technology. Services can be rendered either by humans or by machines.

Services of the ecosphere (Services provided by nature)

are provided free of charge, and without exception they are necessary for supporting life. For example, they include sufficient availability of healthy water in liquid form and clean air for breathing, formation and preservation of fertile soils, protection from dangerous radiation from outer space, diversity of species, and the reproductive power of sperms and seeds. They cannot be produced by technical means in any meaningful quantity, and unwise economic activities can damage them locally as well as globally. Consequences of damage to ecosphere services which can already be measured today include soil erosion, extinction of species, climate change, extreme weather conditions, scarcity of water on all continents, and floods. Some of these changes are irreversible, and others are reversible only over long periods of time as measured by the length of human life.


has three fundamental dimensions: economic social, and ecologic. The ecological dimension determines the corridors for economic and social developments because the availability of natural resources is limited and the vital services of the ecosphere can be diminished or annihilated, but not replaced, by human activity. Sustainability is the capacity of the economic system to provide prosperity for all and, at the same time, to secure the natural, social, and economic foundations that this capacity depends on for the future. Achieving sustainability necessitates overcoming current challenges today and not shifting the burden to the shoulders of future generations.

Sustainable economic activity

is service-oriented and knowledge-intensive. It creates prosperity comparable to the level attained in industrialized countries at the beginning of the twenty-first century with at most one-tenth the use of natural resources. Dematerialization is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for approaching sustainability.




is the area of life created by mankind using natural resources and by technical means.

Total Material Flow (TMF)

or Total Material Requirement (TMR) is a robust economic indicator to measure the annual total amount of natural materials (abiotic, biotic, and movements of earth)–including rucksacks–which are processed through an economic area by technical means (metric tons per year). The term MI (TMR) is also used regarding the MI of products and services when the rucksack categories abiotic, biotic, and movements of earth are presented in added form.




is a measure for the capacity of goods to satisfy people's needs. MIPS is the ecological price of utility.




are materials or products rejected as useless or worthless. In many countries wastes must be recycled or disposed of in legally prescribed ways.