Materials and the Environment

2nd Edition

Eco-informed Material Choice

Authors: Michael Ashby
Paperback ISBN: 9780123859716
eBook ISBN: 9780123859723
Imprint: Butterworth-Heinemann
Published Date: 28th March 2012
Page Count: 628
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Materials and the Environment: Eco-Informed Material Choice, Second Edition, explores human dependence on materials and its environmental consequences. It provides perspective, background, methods, and data for thinking about and designing with materials to minimize their environmental impact.

Organized into 15 chapters, the book looks at the history of our increasing dependence on materials and energy. It first explains where materials come from and how they are used in a variety of industries, along with their life cycle and their relationship to energy and carbon. It then examines controls and economic instruments that hinder the use of engineering materials, considers sustainability from a materials perspective, and highlights the importance of low-carbon power and material efficiency. It also discusses the mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties of engineering metals, polymers, ceramics, composites, and natural materials in relation to environmental issues. This book will help students of Engineering and Materials Science, as well as materials scientists or and engineers in analyzing and responding to environmental concerns.

Key Features

  • Introduces methods and tools for thinking about and designing with materials within the context of their role in products and the environmental consequences
  • Contains numerous case studies showing how the methods discussed in the book can be applied to real-world situations
  • Includes full-color data sheets for 40 of the most widely used materials, featuring such environmentally relevant information as their annual production and reserves, embodied energy and process energies, carbon footprints, and recycling data

New to this edition:

  • New chapter of Case Studies of Eco-audits illustrating the rapid audit method
  • New chapter on Materials for Low Carbon Power examines the consequences for materials supply of a major shift from fossil-fuel based power to power from renewables
  • New chapter exploring Material Efficiency, or design and management for manufacture to provide the services we need with the least production of materials
  • Recent news-clips from the world press  that help place materials issues into a broader context.are incorporated into all chapters
  • End-of-chapter exercises have been greatly expanded
  • The datasheets of Chapter 15 have been updated and expanded to include natural and man-made fibers


Students of Engineering, Materials Science and Industrial/Product Design; Materials & Industrial Engineers; Product Designers

Table of Contents

Preface and acknowledgments

Chapter 1. Introduction

1.1 Introduction and synopsis

1.2 Materials: a brief history

1.3 Learned dependency: the reliance on nonrenewable materials

1.4 Materials and the environment

1.5 Summary and conclusions

1.6 Further reading

1.7 Exercises

Chapter 2. Resource consumption and its drivers

2.1 Introduction and synopsis

2.2 Where do materials come from?

2.3 Resource consumption

2.4 Exponential growth and doubling times

2.5 Reserves, the resource base, and resource life

2.6 The materials-energy-carbon triangle

2.7 Summary and conclusions

2.8 Further reading

2.9 Exercises

Chapter 3. The material life cycle

3.1 Introduction and synopsis

3.2 The design process

3.3 The materials life cycle

3.4 Life-cycle assessment: details and difficulties

3.5 Streamlined LCA and eco-auditing

3.6 The strategy

3.7 Summary and conclusions

3.8 Further reading

3.9 Appendix: software for LCA

3.10 Exercises

Chapter 4. End of first life

4.1 Introduction and synopsis

4.2 What determines product life?

4.3 End-of-first-life options

4.4 The problem of packaging

4.5 Recycling—resurrecting materials

4.6 Summary and conclusions

4.7 Further reading

4.8 Appendix: designations used in recycle marks

4.9 Exercises

Chapter 5. The long reach of legislation

5.1 Introduction and synopsis

5.2 Growing awareness and legislative response

5.3 International treaties, protocols, and conventions

5.4 National legislation: standards and directives

5.5 Economic instruments: taxes, subsidies, and trading schemes

5.6 The consequences

5.7 Summary and conclusions

5.8 Further reading

5.9 Exercises


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About the Author

Michael Ashby

Royal Society Research Professor Emeritus at Cambridge University and Former Visiting Professor of Design at the Royal College of Art, London, UK Mike Ashby is sole or lead author of several of Elsevier’s top selling engineering textbooks, including Materials and Design: The Art and Science of Material Selection in Product Design, Materials Selection in Mechanical Design, Materials and the Environment, and Materials: Engineering, Science, Processing and Design. He is also coauthor of the books Engineering Materials 1&2, and Nanomaterials, Nanotechnologies and Design.

Affiliations and Expertise

Professor Emeritus, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK


"I think this is likely to be a very successful text, since it clearly fills an important niche in engineering texts dealing with materials. I have been quite frustrated with the lack of real data available, when discussing how to design products more responsibly  ...I especially like the emphasis here on the fact that there are no easy answers." --Blaine Lilly, The Ohio State University