What happens when you want to trace down which manufacturer is responsible for the lead on your kid’s Thomas the Tank Engine, and make sure you dispose of and don’t buy any other products associated with that maker? Or the melamine in your dog’s food? Or the antifreeze in your toothpaste? It can be hard to find out. Global supply chains are vast and sometimes impenetrable. For instance, your IKEA Sultan Alsarp bed is made in China (not Sweden) and contains parts from Africa, Germany, and Russia. Enter Sourcemap, a open-source MIT project that aims to find out “Where does all the stuff inside your stuff come from?”
The volunteer-run site catalogs various products and shows where all of its parts come from, which can be a little mind-blowing. It also shows you the carbon footprint for the production and transportation. They have 1442 products in their catalog so far. Enumerating every product known to man would be a Herculean task, but the group is looking to partner with businesses, governments, communities, journalists and educators to beef up its database and impact. Mainly what is important is that even just a little more transparency can do a world of good in helping folks make better choices.