For the average American, the daily flows of materials (other than water) total more than twenty times a person’s body weight, nearly all of it waste. But that waste can be greatly reduced without compromising our well-being. Any improvement that provides the same or a better stream of services from a smaller flow of stuff can produce the same material wealth with less effort, transportation, waste, and cost.
MORE ENERGY-EFFICIENT MANUFACTURING For centuries, even millennia, engineers have sought to reduce industry’s use of energy and resources. The previous industrial revolution sped the transition from Newcomen’s 0.5 percent efficient steam engine to today’s better than 50 percent efficient diesel engines. For decades, the energy used to make a given product has been falling by typically a percent or two a year — faster when energy prices rise, slower when they fall. Yet at each stage of the industrial process, a host of opportunities still exists for doing more and better with much, much less. Even in the most efficient countries and industries, opportunities to wring out waste and improve product quality, as human ingenuity develops new technologies and finds better ways to apply