So, that was the question from my daughter that lead onto a long discussion over supply chains, free market trade, capitalism, politics, fairness, inequality and sustainability. We actually played a game where we both walked around the house picking up different "stuff" and trying to assess where it was made, what it was made of, who made it, was it safe and also why do we have it in the house in the first place! It was almost unbelievable the sheer amount of "stuff" we had. We also undertook a very basic analysis on the impacts (both positive and negative) that this product had on people, the environment and the economy. I have to say for most of the things we picked up we had an overwhelming sense of guilt as it always appeared that the negatives out weighed the positives.
But, this is not necessarily a true reflection of reality. An ever increasing number of companies and legislators are allowing us as consumers to make informed choices about how ethical and sustainable the "stuff" is that we buy. Today Intertek and other companies have an array of services that can help validate the ethical and green credentials of products, be that tracing the cotton from a T.Shirt back to source, measuring the carbon used to manufacture a laptop or assessing if workers have been paid the wages they should have been.
So, when you finish reading this article and pick up the very next thing in your hand just take a minute to consider the journey that piece of "stuff" has gone through and all of the people and materials and energy that went into it getting it to your desk. I hope you appreciate that piece of "stuff" a little more now and go on to make more informed and sustainable choices in your life.