Thursday, July 12, 2007

Life Cycles of Products

One of the daily spiritual practices I'm trying to engage in is examining the life cycle of products that I buy. This is essentially a practice of mindfulness.

For example, if we're talking about organic edamame from China, I might try to find out exactly how they're grown, how the farmers were treated, how the edamame were shipped to me, how the workers were paid and treated, and what happens to the packaging. These aren't necessarily easy things to find out, and I don't do a great job of finding out this information on every product. But I am trying. Fortunately, I don't buy much.

Examining the lifecycle is a bit trickier with a computer because they often contain multiple parts. So where did the parts come from? What are they made of? How were the workers treated who assembled the parts? And what happens after the computer dies? Environmental Science & Technology has a good article about how computers are recycled in China.

You might not be aware of the Basel Convention, which prohibits shipping waste to other countries (I wasn't). This is a preventative measure to combat environmental racism (or classism), which essentially allows the rich to pollute by giving their waste to the poor.