Materials Matter

From Urban and Industrial Environments

Materials Matter

Toward a Sustainable Materials Policy

By Ken Geiser

Foreword by Barry Commoner





The products we purchase and use are assembled from a wide range of naturally occurring and manufactured materials. But too often we create hazards for the ecosystem and human health as we mine, process, distribute, use, and dispose of these materials. Until recently, most research has focused on the waste end of material cycles. This book argues that the safest and least costly point at which to avoid environmental damage is when materials are first designed and selected for use in industrial production. Materials Matter presents convincing evidence that we can use fewer materials and eliminate the use of many toxic chemicals by focusing directly on material (chemical) use when products are designed. It also shows how manufacturers can save money by increasing the effectiveness of material use and reducing the use of toxic chemicals. It advocates new directions for the material sciences and government policies on materials. And it argues that manufacturers, suppliers, and customers need to set more socially responsible policies for products and services to achieve higher environmental and health goals.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262072168 497 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262571487 497 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


Barry Commoner.


  • I congratulate Ken Geiser. I personally found this to be an interesting and a useful book. He has done a thorough job, particularly on the history of materials, creation of synthetic materials, and dissipation of toxics.

    David Berry

    Chair, Federal Interagency Working Group on Industrial Ecology, Materials and Energy Flows

  • Geiser effectively makes the case that materials matter in a virtual age. He provides a guide to developing a sustainable materials policy for citizen leaders, innovators in government, and scientists and engineers with a public policy bent.

    Francis Irwin

    World Resources Institute

  • In this timely and insightful major contribution to the sustainable development literature, Professor Ken Geiser urges a policy shift from assessing the environmental consequences of an industrial economy increasingly dependent on chemicals and metals to a double-pronged strategy of dematerialization and detoxification.  Sustainable strategies for both government and private sector stakeholders are offered for designing and using inherently safer and environmentally-sound materials, redesigning process technology, and shifting from product to product-services.

    Nicholas A. Ashford

    Professor of Technology and Policy, MIT, and coauthor of Environmental Law, Policy, and Economics: Reclaiming the Environmental Agenda