Want to know what route your orange juice or laptop took from creation to the final product in your hand? Or what’s the carbon footprint of your favorite brand of shoes? Check out http://sourcemap.com/. Sourcemap is the crowdsourced directory of product supply chains and carbon footprints.
In 2007, Leonardo Bonanni was looking for a tool that his product design students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could use to measure carbon footprints. The most widely accepted method, Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA), is costly and uses complicated software. So Leonardo and his colleagues built a simple carbon footprint calculator that measures every phase of a product’s life: raw material extraction, manufacturing, shipping, use and end-of-life. They referred to publicly available information on the impact of industrial processes and the sources of commodity materials. Students could visualize the life-cycle on a map – a sourcemap – showing where each part comes from and the carbon footprint of shipping it around the world. Another benefit is that if designers have real-time feedback on the impact of their design choices, then they can make more sustainable products available to the rest of us.
The “wisdom of crowds” is a popular Web 2.0 buzzword, popularized by James Surowiecki’s book of the same name. Crowdsourcing is an application of the “wisdom of crowds” concept, where the knowledge and talents of a group of people are leveraged to create content and solve problems.
So put your wisdom to use; go take a look at http://sourcemap.com/ and register to contribute or stay informed about Sourcemap’s work.