For metrics to be useful in sustainability, they must have attributes that reflect sustainability itself. They must be both quantitative and qualitative.  Looking at the historical metrics, and the way that professions often “worship at the altar” of efficiency metrics, it often seems that society has outsourced our decision making to quantifiable reductionist metrics. When thinking about achieving sustainability goals, we need to far exceed those simplistic metrics, and couple them with a more qualitative, and often, uncomfortable new generation of metrics. These metrics will move beyond mere quantities and instead provide insights into the character and inherent nature of our energy sources, of our stored energy storage systems, of our materials, and our basic chemicals. Sustainable metrics must be applicable and relevant across time and space, systems-based, and able to combine both reductionism and integrative systems thinking.

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Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale

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