What's Wrong With Supply Chain Economics?
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Our planet is choking. Before I make my final exit, I intend to do something about this.
In Berkeley, Calif., where I live, people have stopped drinking bottled water. Several of the best restaurants, including world famous Chez Panisse, have stopped serving it. They serve filtered tap water instead.
Bottled water has an expensive, ecological price tag. The oil that’s required to make an annual supply of plastic bottles for the United States is enough to fuel 100,000 cars for one year. And 85 percent of these bottles end up in garbage dumps, where it takes them 1,000 years to biodegrade.
Add in all the fuel required to transport bottled water across the globe, and you end up with a real disaster.
We live in a “supply chain economy” based on the availability of cheap fossil fuel, and many of the products we readily consume have an even higher environmental cost than bottled water.
Take, for example, an Eileen Fisher linen sweater. It begins as flax grown in France. Once harvested, the flax is shipped by boat to Tianjin, China, where it is put on trucks and driven 255 miles to a yarn factory to be dropped off at a big warehouse. Here, mostly old women pick out impurities like straw by hand for a salary equivalent to one dollar a day.
After being cleaned, the flax is loaded back onto trucks to be driven to yet another factory, where it is combed by gigantic machines and turned into strands of yarn collected in foot-high spools, which are then dipped in bleach.
Next comes a two-day, 1,116 mile drive to a factory in southern China where the thread is dyed purple, coral, pink or lime green. These colorful spools are loaded again into trucks to be shipped off to another factory, where workers stand in front of 400 knitting machines turning out panels of linen. These are shipped off to be turned into sweaters by skilled workers in yet another place.
The sweaters are washed, dried, ironed and inspected. Labels are attached and they are shipped out to Europe and the United States.
I have no idea how much oil it takes before a single Eileen Fisher sweater lands in a downtown San Francisco store, but I suspect it is enough for me to go on a worldwide vacation.
So, here’s what I’ve decided to do. To get started saving our planet, I’m not buying any bottled water. And I’m trying to be smart about other products, too. Instead of buying strawberries imported from Chile, I’m buying the ones from nearby Salinas.
And to maximize my impact, I’m simply buying fewer things. I urge you to do the same.
posted at 03:53:49 PM