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As a project concerned with the varied ways social and ecological processes interact in urban areas, VIVA PLAN seeks to foster lively discussion around concepts with inter-connective, cross-modal, and integrative analytical potentials. "Urban metabolism" is one such concept, as its numerous disciplinary uptakes - in fields as disparate as environmental engineering, human geography, human ecology, urban pollution management -- suggest. This short literature review piece introduces some of the salient discussion points that have gathered around the concept over the last 30 years. While not comprehensive, it nevertheless provides some insight into urban metabolism's applicability to questions of sustainability, well-being, and green space planning.