April 28, 2012, 7:50 AM — Ever picked up a jar of Nutella and wondered how far its contents travelled to make such a delicious spread? Or do you really know how many different countries that you laptop's parts came from? Or perhaps you want to know what your banana's carbon footprint is? Mapping website SourceMap will give you the answers to both of these queries, in an interesting and visual form.
SourceMap lets you trace where particular products come from, by plotting each component's destination and journey on a map. For each destination, you can see a description of which part is from where, and the arrows indicate where that part will go next. Some maps include descriptions of the company, or media, like a video. A handful of the maps even calculate the product's carbon footprint.
Look at the image above: This is the journey of a typical laptop in production. Not only do you have to take into account the assembly of the computer, but where the variety of materials (namely metals) were sourced in order to make it too. As you can see, your laptop probably uses materials from every continent except Antarctica before it lands in China or Taiwan for assembly.
The main idea is to encourage companies to be transparent about their products' origins, so you can make a more informed choice about the products you buy. The website is in its early stages, but its creators hope to roll out more features, such as "item-level traceability" (which means you will be able to scan an item in store to see the full journey the product took in order to get to you).
The only downside to many of these fascinating maps is that it's hard to find the source of the data, which is important where individuals have uploaded a map rather than the company itself. While some user-generated content does include sources, it would be good to see more companies signing up and submitting their own data.
Would you change your mind about a product if you could see how big its carbon footprint is?
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