The Supply Chain – An Environmental Story

In law school, Professor Firestone prompted his environmental law class to consider the supply chain for everything we did, bought or consumed. 

He encouraged us to consider the full lifecycle for everyday products.  It made me think of the cool drink of Kombucha I was about to enjoy in a different way.  Now when I looked at the bottle I became boggled by the raw materials and energy required to produce every component of this mushroomy delight, from the glass bottle, to the paper label, to the tangy, fermented liquid within.  And then you must add transportation into the equation, miles traveled shipping raw goods to the production center, finished product to bottler, bottler to distribution center, distribution center to retailer, and me to the retailer –the miles I traveled to the store to make my purchase of this magic potion.

And once you start thinking about the supply chain, it’s hard to stop.  On a typical day I contemplate pesticides, preservatives, petroleum based products, packaging, miles traveled, water used, CO2 emitted,  waste produced, biodegradable, recyclable, compostable, irradiation, sustainably farmed, sustainably raised, free range, cage free, hormone free… it can be exhausting just to make an omelet in the morning.

Considering all these factors for each and every purchase can be exhausting.  However, being aware of the product lifecycle has made me automatically do some quick calculations before filling up my grocery cart or clicking “buy now”.  Don’t get me wrong, every once in a while I slip up and visit the local fast food dining establishment to enjoy a grilled cheese, animal style.  (Yes – there is a veggie option, and trust me – you won’t miss the beef patty in this delicious sandwich.)  It’s best not to get me started on the supply chain of beef…