Monitoring and comparing the “real” cost of everyday products
Most of us in the UK are quite picky consumers. We have a fair idea of what ethical products are out there and we make efforts to buy products (and services) that have a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle, from the extraction of raw material through to production, use and disposal.
There is a plethora of eco-labels to help us, from the EU Ecolabel to Fairtrade, and labels run by big brands like C.A.F.E. from Starbucks (Coffee and Farmer Equity).
The problem is that there is no easy way of rapidly comparing the eco-costs of competitive products in real-time, in the supermarket aisle or other retail outlet.
Wouldn’t it be useful to have a smartphone app, or a card, to get an instant readout of a product’s use of carbon, water, material and disposal costs in a “currency” we could understand?
And keep running totals of our eco-costs against a sustainable lifestyle score?
Monitoring “my eco cost” would be fun for children and adults alike and give a new dimension to shopping. It could even pop up on screen displays of the supermarkets and other retailers which offer online ordering.
You might think that this is a big ask. But there is a social enterprise which has already developed an integrated software framework for capturing and displaying these costs using an ecological currency.
myEcoCost is both the company — which was involved in an EU-sponsored research project to set up such a framework — and the concept of a myEcoCost currency to measure all ecological inputs.
A product’s “ecoCost” is calculated, and displayed, dynamically as manufacturer and supply chain enter data into existing accounting systems in the production and distribution process.
The consumer scans the barcodes of competing products in the supermarket aisle and can compare the full ecological cost of each product, as well as how much purchases add to their own household’s myEcoCost account.
Cumulative myEcoCost debits will be used to compare their personal consumption against a sustainable lifestyle score, determined by publicly-agreed limits.
By being able to identify ecologically-expensive products, consumers can choose a different product next time they shop and improve their score.
myEcoCost is now developing the myEcoCost system for full commercial use. As a small social enterprise, it needs help.
Ultimately, this will be financial but, in the meantime, following the company on social media and registering interest on the website will keep you in touch with progress, trials and launch.
Follow myEcoCost on Twitter
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Register on the myEcoCost website