Environmental strategy is currently in transition from a reductionist view of individual technologies in isolation to a holistic and interdisciplinary view of the relationship between society, technology, and environmental impact. As a contribution to this larger effort, this paper uses a systems analytic approach to develop a 'sector-stream matrix' of functions and objectives that have an impact on the environment. In particular, the overall 'built-and-natural-environment system' is divided into two subsystems, labeled the 'people' and 'product' streams; analysis of the two streams can be used both qualitatively and quantitatively in order to gain insight into the causes of environmental impact. As an example of the latter, an application of the sector-stream matrix to the breakdown of energy use in the UK is presented. Advantages of the matrix approach over the traditional division into sectors (industrial/transport/other) and other applications and side issues are discussed. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.