Live blogging from the Greener Gadgets Conference 2010 (#GG10 on Twitter)
Ever wondered where your iPod actually comes from? Actually, the flash memory comes from South Korea, the HDD input comes from Japan, chips come from Taiwan, assembly was most likely done in China, and design happened in California.
Looking a bit like Jimmie Kimmel in a black blazer over a black cotton shirt, Leonardo Bonanni showed the Greener Gadgets audience a map that showed the above supply chain, as well as the carbon footprint of an iPod (9.84kg). Bonanni is a PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab, where he researchers and teaches sustainable design. Through the lab he is the founder of Sourcemap.org, an open source site where anyone can share the supply chain of products or activities.
Bonanni talked briefly about the big impact of mining around the world, especially how it is driven by our insatiable appetite for electronics. "Each computer is a treasure of materials, it's a really awesome thing and we should recognize and respect that," said Bonanni. "Every product we only own for a brief time in its lifecycle. It was touched by many people before us, and it's probably going to end up with lots of other people, in lots of other places, when we are done with it. These materials in a sense don't belong to us."
Bonanni said he originally conceived of Sourcemap to help designers understand where materials and products come from, but he says it is finding the biggest use among big global companies, which have struggled to keep on top of increasingly complex supply chains, and which are increasingly being scrutinized for environmental and human rights issues at every step. Tesla Motors has posted an entry of their electric cars, and another company uses the software to track meetings and staff movements, and the associated carbon footprints.
When Bonanni looked to get business cards for his site, and the largely volunteer staff that helps him out, he checked out Moo cards online. He discovered that the printer offered two kinds of cards, and he wondered which had a lower carbon footprint, half-size cards or regular-size cards made from recycled paper. It turns out the half-size cards were a bit better. "This shows that we know little about the carbon footprints of things," he said. "We don't want there to be any excuse for people not to know where things come from."
Another example of a use for Sourcemap is shown by the caterer who serves local food, and who prints maps of the farms that source his ingredients on his menus. He uses Sourcemap's easy interface to locate the farms and keep track of the impact. The end result, is that customers are really ordering from the place, and they can go to that place if they like the food.
Sourcemap is a great web 2.0 application to help us learn more about our increasingly global footprint, and to become smarter, greener consumers and businesses.
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