Factor Ten is the radical idea that humanity must reduce resource turnover by 90 percent on a global scale within the next 30 to 50 years. Human energy use and material flows is currently unsustainable and destructive to the environment. To achieve dematerialization, Factor 10 proposes that within the next generation human energy use must decrease by a factor of 10 while resource productivity and efficiency must increase by a factor of 10.
Friedrich Schmidt-Bleek from the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy first proposed the Factor 10 and dematerialization concepts in the early 1990s. He concluded in his studies that 80 percent of the world’s resources are distributed among first world nations which only contribute 20 percent of the global population. This means that developed nations are prompting an unsustainable system of development. The goal of Factor 10 is to assure that nations do not exceed the planet’s carrying capacity and leave sufficient resources for future generations.
Factor 10 evolved from the less dramatic Factor 4 which was originally proposed by L. Hunter Lovins and Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute and Ernst von Weizsäcker, founder of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment & Energy. Their book Factor 4 explains how simple it is for nations to achieve Factor 4 results with existing technologies. This concept attempts to reduce resource and energy use by 75 percent by doubling output and halving input of production.
Factor 10 requires the creation of new technologies, policies, and manufacturing processes along with socio-cultural change to create a global economy that is sustainable for a long period of time. Due to the long-term goal of Factor 10, many governments and firms aspiring toward short term relief have difficulty achieving the massive reductions proposed by factor 10. Eco-efficiency, environmental purchasing design for environment, policies and environmental taxes have already been used by business and governments implementing the Factor 10 theory.
Factor Ten goes further as a response to the United Nations Environment Programme call for a tenfold reduction in resource consumption in industrialised countries as a necessary long-term target, if adequate resources are to be released for the needs of the developing countries. With the predicted rise in population and economic growth to maintain the level of pollution we have today, we need to be able to produce the same output for 10% of the impact.
Factor X concept is the direct way of utilising metric and various activities that can reduce the throughput of resources and energy in the given process. The essential question is: by what factor can or should certain flows be reduced? It is a useful tool to monitor the performance of business in terms of dematerialization.
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- UNEP, Global Environmental Outlook 2000, 1999.
- Robert, K.H., Schmidt-Bleek, B., et al. (2002). "Strategic sustainable development, selection, design and synergies of applied tools." Journal of Cleaner Production.
- Schmidt-Bleek, F. (2008). "Factor 10: The future of stuff". Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy 4 (1): 1–4.