Erinn G. Ryen


Consumer electronics have revolutionized the manner in which we work, read, and entertain ourselves. However, this transformation comes at a high cost, with significant energy input and emissions releases across all stages of the electronic product life cycle. The limited success of per product efficiency improvements, often formulated in the field of industrial ecology, does not address the electronic product system as a whole because escalating consumption may actually offset any individual impact reductions. Additionally, existing industrial ecology models fail to effectively capture energy, material, and waste flows associated with real consumption patterns, as consumers purchase, use, and discard a group of interrelated devices such as desktops, laptops, printers, mobile phones, and digital cameras.

To address this challenge, this dissertation develops and applies novel industrial ecology methodologies to more effectively characterize changes to rapidly evolving and interrelated product systems. Notably, these approaches borrow heavily from underutilized biological ecology concepts from community ecology and optimal foraging theory, but adapted for use as applied to a complex product system like consumer electronics. These approaches can lead to more effective design, production, green purchasing decisions, and end of life practices and policies, while at the same time expand industrial ecology's traditional focus on the ecosystem metaphor and ‘per product’ approaches and strengthen its connection to the source science: biological ecological roots.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Household electronics industry--Environmental aspects; Product life cycle; Industrial ecology

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Sustainability (Ph.D.)

Department, Program, or Center

Sustainability (GIS)


Callie W. Babbitt

Advisor/Committee Member

Dennis A. Andrejko

Advisor/Committee Member

Nabil Nasr


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at HD9971.5.E542 R94 2014

2015 Outstanding PhD Dissertation Award Honorable Mention


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes