SourceMap is a mapping tool meant for business owners and consumers to understand the impact of supply chains and how the products they are using contribute to the environment. It was created "so that everyone can access the information needed to make sustainable choices and share them with the world'. Members can simulate the impact of manufacturing, transporting, using and throwing away products using the so-called "Life-Cycle Assessment" calculator. The "SourceMaps" can then be embedded in external websites, printed onto product packaging or linked through QR codes readable by camera phones.
From their FAQ:
Why Do We Measure Carbon Footprint?
There are a number of ways to measure environmental impact, but carbon footprint has become the international standard. Carbon footprint is expressed as the global warming potential of a certain activity, and it can be measured in terms of kg CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent). This value includes other pollutants, including methane and sulfur oxide, but fails to account for pollutants with little global warming impact (such as heavy metals and radiation). In the future we hope to provide additional measures, such as energy, toxicity, and resource depletion.
Where Do We Get Our Carbon Footprint Information?
Sourcemap is, in part, an attempt to make available all the information we can about carbon footprint so that people can make informed decisions—even without an engineering degree or access to high-end software. We try to get our information from publicly available sources, almost none of which agree with each other. The sources we have used most frequently are the Okala guide (only available in print), the ICE (a download may be requested via e-mail), the ecoinvent database (part of which is freely available online), and a bevvy of other efforts (see the complete list of sources below). We are always looking for more carbon footprint values and ways to make sense of different approaches.
How Do We Know Where Things Come From?
It can be almost impossible to know with certainty where something comes from—that is why we’re building Sourcemap. Until producers care about the sources of materials, consumers will be uninformed. Nevertheless, we can make certain assumptions about the sources of common materials. The British Geological Survey provides a free list of all known mineral- and metal-extracting countries. The US Geological Survey maintains a database of almost every mine in the world.
To find out where a product comes from, we have to dig a little deeper. Few companies explicitly reveal their manufacturing locations or their suppliers’. Madeinnations.com, however, provides the assembly location for many consumer goods. The rest of the information that we’ve made available is based on extensive research.
Life-Cycle Assessment: How We Do It
Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a way to measure the environmental impact of a product or a service. It works by summing up the impact of each component part and every phase of life (raw material, manufacturing, shipping, use, and end-of-life). We use a database made from publicly available information and the entries that users like you create to estimate the impact of common materials and processes. The result is expressed in terms of carbon footprint, specifically CO2e or global warming potential.