Once, when I was in school, I was playing with a salt shaker and began wondering just where the salt came from and how it got here from wherever it was mined, processed, packaged and finally transported to my cafeteria table. I thought at the time that it would make an interesting book (that I never wrote), maybe even a type of intellectual game, where people had to guess where everyday objects came from. I called this “thing tracing”. But, like so many half-formed ideas, it came to naught.
But no need for regrets it any more. Now there’s a much better application of this idea and a truly significant and “world changing” resource.
It’s call SourceMap, and it’s not only informative, it’s addictive.
Ever wonder where that nice wood flooring for your newest home renovation came from? What about the ingredients in that meat lover’s pizza, or the replacement parts for your imported car, or the carbon footprint of your breakfast? Now, all that information — and it’s frequently surprising, sometimes shocking — is available in seconds.
Sourcemap was one of the top three winners of the Scientific American’s ‘World Changing Ideas’ video contest. Not surprisingly, two out of the three top winners are connected to MIT. The consumer-oriented site is the brain-child of Leonardo Bonanni and is essentially a crowd-sourced web site that “tracks the environmental footprint of product supply chains. Visualizations and calculators allow consumers to estimate the impact of products, foods and events.”
The user-friendly site includes satellite imagery of the supply chain which you can also manipulate for more detailed results. True to its name, the site offers “life cycle” maps of common consumer products (and I still maintain that there’s a game concept in here somewhere!)
Sourcemap is an MIT media lab open source project. Hopefully, it will spread around the web and become a common go-to resource site (perhaps as much as flickr or wikipedia). When that happens, and as people start making decision based upon this information, then it will truly become “world changing”.
Here’s the instructionalVIDEO:
Or just head right on over to Sourcemap and start sourcing that chunk of imported cheese!