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Sustainable Stuff

June 9, 2014

Manufactured goods today have so many parts from so many places that even the companies that sell them can’t keep track.



A product’s true cost. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Francisco Osorio Flickr cc

Do you know where your cell phone came from? (Francisco Osorio/Flickr)

Every item we buy has a story to tell. Miners extracting rare metals; line workers bathing microchips in solvents; children trimming denim. Thousands of people touched and miles logged before plunking into our shopping cart. Writing in the journal Science, UC Berkeley Environmental and Information Scientist Dara O’Rourke says every link in a product’s supply chain has health, environmental, and political costs not always reflected in its price. Tracking them is difficult, but new analytical tools are helping.

O’Rourke (University of California, Berkeley):

Simplified methods to try to get this quicker sense of where are the hotspots in your supply chain. What are the biggest impacts that you should focus on first to try to bring down environmental impacts or health impacts or social impacts, etc.


He says the techniques can help companies optimize their supply chains, eliminating the harmful links and reducing costs. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.