June 9, 2009
First post - trying to come to grips with the recent flurry of environmental awareness that now seems to be gaining ground in the US. Am I happy about this? You bet. Everywhere I turn, I see ways that companies and individuals alike are trying to improve their overall environmental performance and minimize their environmental impact. I love this term "footprint" being used as means to look at the big picture in terms of how our choices are affecting the world around us. But therein lies a lot of confusion, and a near impossible task of trying to balance competing environmental and social impacts. Some choices appear to be "no brainers" on the surface, such a minimizing or avoiding petroleum-based products, like plastics and acrylics, but do we really know if these create a significantly larger foot print than those materials that are "natural"? And is local always better? Is it better to support local economies at the expense of developing economies? Is organic better if it means more transportation. Or can we find a way to balance these choices so that the resulting "foot print" of our collective action is as light as possible while still making forward progress.
If we aren't looking at the entire environmental foot print of a product, from raw material development through manufacture, transport, use, and ultimately disposal - how do we really know if our choice is indeed the best option for the environment. Unfortunately, such comparisons are nearly impossible to make at the moment as we lack the standards and tools that allow the "apple to apple" comparisons of products.
To build those tools and obtain verified information about the products we buy, we need to put more pressure on organizations to be more transparent. We need to convince these companies that if they want us to purchase their products, or invest in their companies, then they need to make it known where raw materials are sourced, how they are produced, and by whom, and what commitment they are making to improve their environmental and social performance.
So I'm going to try to create some tools to evaluate my fiber choices. A kind of score card that will allow a person to evaluate source materials, manufacturing processes, supply chain issues, transportation, and social issues, as well as the commitment and transparency of the manufacturer and their level of corporate responsibility. The process and results will be presented here.