How many resources do we need – in our daily life, at work, in our free time? Which products or services consume how many resources? An assessment method has been developed at the Wuppertal Institute.

The ecological rucksack (or "Material Footprint") depicts the resource consumption of a certain economic activity (such as purchasing a product) – similar to the "Carbon Footprint" which shows the greenhouse gas emissions. Every natural material utilisation is considered when calculating the ecological rucksack, because every resource use changes natural material flows and every withdrawal sooner or later becomes waste or emissions. The smaller the ecological rucksack, the fewer impact on nature and climate change.

Taking the whole system into account is essential: a product's whole life cycle – from the natural resource withdrawal to the disposal or recycling – is considered in the calculation process. 80% of the resource consumption are defined during the process of planning and designing products or services. An early integration of resource efficiency into the planning and designing processes is vital.

The things that surround us are full of natural resources that arise during resource withdrawal, manufacturing, transport, distribution, usage and disposal.

MIPS forms the conceptual framework of calculating the ecological rucksack, and was developed at the Wuppertal Institute during the 1990's by Friedrich Schmidt-Beek. The abbreviation MIPS stands for Material Input per Service Unit. MIPS is an elementary measure to estimate the environmental impacts caused by a product or service. The whole life-cycle from cradle to cradle (extraction, production, use, waste/recycling) is considered. MIPS can be applied in all cases, where the environmental implications of products, processes and services need to be assessed and compared. Furthermore, it is possible to analyse whether an improvement in one area leads to problems in another area of the economic system.

Many tutorials and tools have been developed at the Wuppertal Institute in order to allow for an external use of the concept. One prominent example is the footprint calculator with which you can estimate your resource consumption. 


Katrin Bienge

Tel.: +49 202 2492-191

Fax: +49 202 2492-108

My ecological rucksack

How many resources do you consume?

Assess the ecological rucksack of your lifestyle. It just takes 10 minutes of your time to find out how sustainable your life is and how to make it resource-lighter.

click to start the test


Here you find publications on MIPS and material footprint.


Here you find research activities in the field of calculating resources.

Related projects

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