MIPS: Material Intensity Per Service Unit
MIPS quantify the material intensity of a product or service by adding up the overall material input which humans move or extract to make that product or provide that service. It puts life cycle thinking at the beginning of the product chain.
MIPS is measured in kilogram per unit of service. The material input is calculated in five categories: abiotic raw materials, biotic raw materials, water, erosion, and air. The Wuppertal Institute in Germany, which designed this material flow analysis, promotes the need to cut material use by 50% and increase the productivity of materials in a much more efficient and more equitably distributed manner.
MIPS: A Tool for Sustainable Consumption
The need to better quantify and reduce our consumption of resources in the industrialized countries is of paramount importance. Our current consumption levels are unsustainable. If the rest of the world were to consume resources at the rate of North American households, we would need two more planet earths to supply the resources and absorb the wastes. Some groups have used MIPS calculations to change their consumption behavior. When the Wuppertal Institute in Germany calculated the environmental impact of drinking one glass of orange juice (eg., the amount of soil, energy, water, and other materials used or displaced to produce the glass of juice) they found that 1 kilogram of juice required 25 kgs of materials and energy. This led some consumer groups in Germany to advertise the benefits of drinking local cranberry juice, which is just as rich in vitamin C but with a smaller ecological impact. In other words, the service that was provided (vitamin C in a tasty fruit drink) could be supplied by another product with a lower ecological impact.
For more information on MIPS, please visit the Publications section of Wuppertal’s website (www.wupperinst.org).