WIT Press

Thermodynamics-based Indicators For Environmental Management And Sustainability Policies


Free (open access)





Page Range

145 - 155




420 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


F. M. Pulselli, S. Borsa, N. Marchettini & V. Niccolucci


Human activity is deeply funded on the availability of natural resources. They are mostly provided for free by the environment and often neglected by traditional accounting systems since it is difficult to express their contribution or their physical weight in monetary unit, more familiar to most people. Inventorying all the flows of energy and matter that feed a territorial system and giving them a non-market value plays an important role in the field of natural resources management, sustainability policies and territorial planning. A physical based environmental accounting method is implemented in order to evaluate all the resources used within the area on a common basis, beyond the economic scheme, which allows a deeper knowledge of the system. The tool is emergy evaluation, a thermodynamics-based approach, introduced by Howard T. Odum during the 1980s. The use of emergy enables one to calculate some sustainability indicators (such as Environmental Loading Ratio, Emergy per Person, Empower Density, Emergy Investment Ratio), and is able to give a systemic and holistic picture of the system from an environmental point of view. The paper presents a sustainability assessment at regional level by monitoring the use of resources and the results of the analysis could be used to design different development models and scenarios with several implications for the administrative activity. The results orient environmental management solutions for territorial planning and sustainable policies. Keywords: territorial planning, resource management, emergy evaluation; indicators.


territorial planning, resource management, emergy evaluation; indicators