Along with a few others working in industry and academia at the time, Graedel began to make observations about the interaction between economic and environmental factors that would influence his early thoughts on industrial ecology. He developed an environmental assessment matrix for AT&T products that would become a standard tool for streamlined life cycle assessments of the environmental impacts of products, processes, and facilities.
As he started to share the message of “green design” with the manufacturing side of AT&T, he found that people were receptive to the new ideas. In fact, there was an appetite for more information about how to implement them. “It occurred to me and [colleague] Brad Allenby that there was a gap to be filled. So we wrote an early textbook,” Graedel says. “It happened to be the first one in the field.”
The book, which has since been translated into several languages and remains a bible in the field, helped introduce these new concepts to a wider audience.
“There were people asking, ‘What is this field? What kind of field is it?'” remembers Marian Chertow
, Associate Professor of Industrial Environmental Management at F&ES who has worked alongside Graedel since he arrived at Yale. “And that’s why the textbook was important. Because it said, if it’s in this textbook, then it is
f the textbook was a seminal moment in the emergence of the field of industrial ecology, the establishment of the Center for Industrial Ecology at Yale
, in 1998, helped secure Yale at its center, colleagues say.
“[F&ES Dean] Jerry Cohon was ready and willing to take the risk in bringing Tom here,” Chertow says. “Looking back now you might say, ‘Hiring a distinguished scientist from Bell Labs wasn’t that
much of a risk,’ But it was
a risk. As far as we know, it was the first class in industrial ecology.
“And, with the establishment of the Center, Tom had the wherewithal to create a program, not just teach a class.”
During those years, in the late 1990s, the new Yale team created the Journal of Industrial Ecology
(JIE) as a platform to publish research, and held the first Gordon Research Conference on Industrial Ecology, which helped create a global community. By 2001, the International Society for Industrial Ecology was established, and its first conference was held in the Netherlands.