MIT’s Media Lab has designed a way to help you understand the economic and ecological implications behind different products you buy–it’s an interactive map that displays where each component came from.
Specifically designed to be a “collective tool for transparency and sustainability,” SourceMap’s intended to demonstrate how important supply chains are, and what the consequences of each part of the chain work out to be. It’s set up like a social network, so that anyone from producers to end-users can take part (as long as you’re a registered member). Check out the demonstration video to get a better insight:
The system’s core is a list of “parts”, many of which make up a full product. Each part has a start point, and the estimated carbon footprint of getting the specific part to the product assembly line contributes to an estimate for the carbon footprint of the whole machine. A part can have photos, videos and text tags, and it can be described for different portions of a product lifespan–including disposal.
As a tool it has significant promise, and could certainly become an important way for eco-campaigners to get their message across. It’s in early stages as an open-source product though, and the MIT team fully expects it to grow in good (and bad) ways. They’re accepting of irrelevant mistakes and “downright useless” maps, but that should change once they appoint moderators.