Extended Gratitude

I was listening to a TED Radio Hour podcast earlier this week where one of the segments featured A.J. Jacobs talking about his experience of thanking everyone who made it possible to buy a morning brew at the local coffee shop.   He started a list – it grew to over 100 people!  When you consider the entire supply chain for coffee, it’s long.  He made this a project – even traveled to Columbia to thank the growers in person.  He found some people suspicious — like “what’s up with this guy.”  But he said most got into the spirit, even giving him ideas of others to thank.  All this led to giving a TED talk.

It got me thinking about who is responsible (i.e., who might we thank) for a pair of running shoes we buy.  I started my list going backwards roughly from the point of sale.  He’s what I’ve come with so far:

  1. The salesperson at the running store who brought out multiple pairs of shoes to try on
  2. The person who trained the salesperson so they knew which shoes to bring out
  3. The employees who stocked the shoes so the salesperson could go fetch them
  4. The driver who delivered the shoes to the store
  5. The company buyer who ordered the shoes
  6. The owner of the company who hired the buyer and authorized him/her to order a variety of  shoes
  7. The employees at the company warehouse who received the order, checked it in, and filled the orders from the store managers
  8. The truck driver who delivered the shoes to the company warehouse from the brand’s warehouse
  9. The workers at the brand’s warehouse who loaded the truck for delivery to the company warehouse
  10. The driver of the rig that took the shoes to the brand warehouse from the port
  11. The crew that unloaded the ship at the destination port   
  12. The captain of the ship on which the order was shipped
  13. The crew that loaded the ship at point of shipment
  14. The shipping clerk who put the order together for overseas shipment
  15. The workers (managers, sourcing agents, office staff, and line workers – at least four separate people — in the factory overseas where the shoe was constructed
  16. The brand’s designer who crafted this model of shoe
  17. The shoe testers who rated the shoe which led to design modifications, if needed
  18. The packers at the factory, making the final QC check, and then placing shoes into a box.
  19. The farmers and producers where raw materials (rubber, fabrics, and synthetics – a number of people in this step) needed to make the shoes were sourced
  20. The person who made the box to pack the shoes into
  21. The operator of the mill that provided pulp for the box maker
  22. The logger who harvested the trees from which pulp was made to make the boxes
  23. The forester who managed the timber stand from which the trees were cut
  24. The certifier of the forest stand from which the timber was cut
  25. The refiners who produced the gas used by the delivery trucks
  26. The tanker trucks and/or pipeline operators who brought the oil from the rigs to the refiner  
  27. The oil drillers and rig operators who produced the oil for delivery to refiners
  28. The factory that built the truck that delivered the container of shoes to the manufacturer’s U.S. warehouse (a number of people here)  
  29. The construction crews that built the roads on which the various types of delivery trucks traveled (lots of people here too!)
  30. The engineers who designed the roads upon which the delivery trucks traveled
  31. The taxpayers who funded road design and construction through the gas tax

That’s just the people. On top of this are the trees, water, sun, etc. that enabled the raw materials.  Bottom line, it takes a lot of people and ecosystem services to bring us what we use.  It’s an extended web!  I have not been in the habit of thinking about that for each item  bought or used.  But it might be a worthwhile exercise to do once in a while. 

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