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Last updated: September 13, 2015



  Ecological Rucksack the Material Input Per Unit of Service (MIPS) Concept By Professor Schmidt Bleek  
Posted: 12 July 2014
Dr.Friedrich Schmidt-Bleek from Germany, Director of the Factor 10 Institute
Above: Professor Schmidt Bleek at the Wuppertal Institute in Germany discussing MIPS. Notice the compound equation on the chalkboard.
Professor Schmidt Bleek’s work is based in the idea that the economy and the environment are inextricably interrelated and for them to get on the right path would require nations who use the most resources to dematerialize consumption by a “factor of 10.” The book describing the calculations of the MIPS concept called "Das MIPS Konzept" has not yet been translated into English, however enough of the MIPS concept is described in Dr. Schmidt Bleek’s 2001 book "The Earth." Any product or service The Material Input Per unit of Service value which is an alternative price tag that more accurately reflects the stress that that produce or service causes on the environment.

Every single product or service has a Material Input Per unit of Service value and the smaller the MIPS, also known as the ‘ecological rucksack’ the better. (Earth, 24)

The MIPS value of a car for example, will be lower if all 4 seats are frequently used per use. The MIPS would equal the cost of the vehicle divided by how many people ride in the car per use of the vehicle.

An overly simplistic explanation of how a low MIPS is achieved for a car is as follows: To find the MIPS of a minivan with 7 seats including the driver's seat, divide the cost of the van by the number of people riding in it. If only the driver rides in the van with six empty seats, the economic rucksack will be the cost of the van divided by 1 which is higher than if the van was driven with more seats filled with passengers, then the MIPS value would be the cost of the van divided by a higher number of passengers which equals a lower MIPS value.

Dr. Schmidt Bleek connects his idea of the ecological rucksack, which is a more meaningful price tag in terms of  concern for the environment, to an idea expressed by Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker regarding the ‘untruth’ of prices. He writes:        

“For years, one of the most notable statements by Ernst Ulrich Von Weizsacker has been that prices do not tell the economic truth…. If we content ourselves with using ecological rucksacks to estimate the potential material goods for ecological disturbance, we can indeed compare different goods with each other and arrive at statements about the “ecological untruth” of their market prices.”

(Schmidt-Bleek, 77)

Dr. Schmidt Bleek’s definition of “Sustainable Development’ is as follows:        

Development is considered sustainable if it takes the limited amounts of natural resources into consideration and is designed to avoid all tendencies which could place restrictions on the quality of life of future generations. 

(Schmidt-Bleek, 5)

Dr. Schmidt Bleek has lived through much earlier eras, when the things we take for granted such as electricity and running water in homes were still relatively new.   He points out that many people take for granted services that would have been a dream to their grandmothers and that the world does not have enough resources for every country in the world to consume on the level of the United States and other super powers.     

“Many scientists who study questions relating to economic and ecological systems agree that there are not even close to enough raw materials available on our planet, were everyone to consume as much of them as the current top consumers in Europe and America.”

(Schmidt-Bleek, 1)    


“From a scientific point of view, there is no longer any doubt that the systemic root cause of our environmental problem lies in the inappropriate course of the metabolism between the prosperity machine of the economy on the one hand and the eco sphere on the other.Therefore the issue touches on the future viability of the economy itself in a pivotal way, as we can easily see it if we look at the big picture.  If all of mankind wanted to live by western patterns of consumption, then one planet Earth would not be sufficient." 

(Schmidt-Bleek, 88)


"Prosperity Machine of the Economy" - Many of Dr. Schmidt Bleek's view would be in pretty much exact opposition to what such infamous icons as James Inhofe Republican from Oklahoma, would think - who is known for vehemently denying that climate change is real.

“We must dampen our economy’s hunger for ever greater amounts of raw materials.” (Schmidt-Bleek, 4)

“Use more intelligence not more material.”(Schmidt-Bleek, 21)

Dr Schmidt Bleek unlike most goes one level further than the popular idea that ‘carbon emissions’ from vehicles are the main problem causing climate change, but Schmidt Bleek in his opinion states that:      

“Using billions of metric tons of coal, oil and gas to supply energy is the real problem…”

(Schmidt Bleek, 23)

By Andrea Boggs

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