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Where Did It Come From? Where Will It Go? --- An idea for a web site
(Revision history))

The Problem

Many people would like to be more aware of the environmental side-effects of their actions, but it's not always easy. You blow your nose on a Kleenex tissue -- was it made from recycled newspaper, or did they chop down virgin forests to make it? You put a magazine in the recycling bin -- does it get shredded to serve as insulation in a wall inside somebody's house, or does it just end up as more landfill?

If you want to make a difference, you've got to know what effects your actions have.

Product Side-Effect Home Page

A part of the solution to this problem could be a web site devoted to collecting and distributing information about

  • the sources of materials that go into products, and
  • where things go when they're recycled

    The site would get off the ground with some interesting factoids about the ingredients of well-known products (e.g. "Did you know that four acres of virgin forest are felled to produce the Secret Sauce for A SINGLE BITE of a McDontaskdontel's hamburger?"). For bio-conscious people, it would be a fun place to visit, and see what's the difference between one product and another.

    Once the site was popular, it could be made a more useful reference, with the addition of things like:

  • a rating scale for the "eco-cost" of various products
  • cross-references (so that you could look up the ingredients of ingredients)
  • a search function

    Ideally, something like this would eventually evolve into a (government-funded?) public service.

    When the eco-cost of a product becomes something consumers are aware of, it will be a marketing advantage to lower that cost. Currently, a web page is something that people look at when they're at home, or in the office. In the future, when you can look up a product's total cost (eco-cost, social cost, etc. -- in addition to its sticker price) while you're in the store, shopping will be more than just getting the product you need -- you'll also be voting about how the world should work.

    by Stephen Malinowski

    Revision history:

  • 1998feb02 Had the idea at work, HTMLled it