Industrial ecology is a young discipline that considers industrial and commercial enterprises as an ecosystem analogous to biological ecosystems. Its organising principle is that industrial systems should emulate the best features of biological ecosystems, thereby reducing energy and material consumption and waste generation. The benefits of such operations are reduced environmental damage and increased sustainability for both natural resources and human activities. This overview is not intended for experts in the field. Its purpose is to acquaint a more general audience with the genesis, principles, and practice of industrial ecology. To that end, the paper reviews the basic principles of industrial ecology, discusses some means for implementing them, and provides examples of their applications. In addition, the paper discusses the formation, both spontaneous and directed, of eco-industrial parks; and the role and training of engineers, scientists and others in applying industrial ecology principles. Finally, the current status and some of the current controversies about industrial ecology are briefly explored.