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Pope's Encyclical for 2016

I have found it quite a challenge while shopping to choose products that are ethical, healthy and sustainable. For one, it's hard to remember everything and second the information is not always available. I can improve the second by picking places to shop that list this type of information and hopefully this entry will help me wrap my head around the first.

Before making a purchase I'd like a convenient, quick way to evaluate the product I'm buying. It's safe to assume I've already evaluated it's performance and utility (i.e. I need it for something and it will perform well in that role) so I'll focus exclusively on the goals set forth by Pope Francis.

All products, services and foods require some amount of input (e.g. labor or water) to produce and afterwards they provide some type of utility and externality (unaccounted side affect). If I were to sum up the Pope's message from an economics point of view it would be: reducing externality to zero. It's taking full account of the people making it, the impact to the regions where the product is made and the deleterious effects on the environment as well as the positive output the product was intended to make.

I have taken these goals and broken them down into 6 categories. 3 are inputs and 3 are outputs (one of which is the primary utility). This implies that 5 of 6 categories are related to full accountability.

Before Purchase:

  1. Energy: are the energy inputs (electricity, gas, oil, wind, etc) from renewable resources?
  2. Labor: was the product produced by people who are treated and paid with dignity and respect? Is the work environment safe and clean?
  3. Manufacture/Assembly: is the product and are all the materials required to produce the product handled in such a way as to not cause pollution or landfill? Is water used sustainable? Was the factory and equipment sustainably manufactured?

The last bit is where it starts to get a little difficult and a little recursive. For all the raw inputs (e.g. metal, plastic, screws, seeds, water, tools, etc) were they also produced ethically and without environmental impact? Was the factory sustainably built? Farm equipment? Did every single process step (usually done at different locations by different companies) use renewable energy and protect the environment? The inputs above also need to be applied to each input. And if each input has multiple parts then it needs to be applied to those as well. As a consumer this is incredibly difficult.

After Purchase:

  1. Utility: primary function of the device
  2. Landfill: when you are done with this product will it be recyclable or compostable?
  3. Pollution: does it produce any pollution (air, land, sea, space) while it is being used? Is your device connected? What pollution does the server farm cause?

To put a new figure on this these are my consumption targets for 2016:

Purchases

Target Description
33% local, handmade, from USA or protected/original region
33% fairtrade, worker protected and produced with safety, dignity and respect
33% made with renewable power and has zero externalities during usage/manufacture. BIG STRETCH.
33% recyclable/compostable including packaging
3 # earths total consumption (still no way to measure this)

Resource Usage

Target Description
33% renewable+clean power
33% recycled waste
33% total miles public transit/walk
7+3 showers+baths/wk
26 vehicle minimum mpg

Diet

Target Description
33% organic food
33% freerange food
1 desserts/wk
4 drinks/wk
12pm No coffee after this time
20% fruit
10% nuts, seeds, eggs and beans
30% vegetables
10% meat and seafood
20% (mostly whole grain) carbs
10% dairy
- Buy higher quality, tastier food
- Moderate fat intake

Activity

  • 2 workouts/wk
  • Glasswork once/wk
  • Walk to/from work
  • Sunlight 15m/day
  • 6hrs sleep/night
  • no air quality target

Misc

  • Donate to land conservation. Pay taxes (to support govt sponsored conservation).
  • Live a hygienic lifestyle.
  • Treat people with respect.

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