23 July 2018 - Sustainability is a clear goal without subjective disagreements if conceptualized as the art of encouraging more sustainable options per every commodity category. Yet, all materials and technologies we require for sustainability have been already invented. They simply have to be applied more consciously.

It is in this framework in which Commodity Ecology was born as an idea, in order to identify choices missing as well as specific actionable improvements per region while allowing to assess how far toward sustainability we are. It is described as a grassroots command economy and as a more systematic rapid rural appraisal.

Commodity Ecology is an initiative originated to facilitate social, economic, and environmentally sound development, being an ongoing self-maintained regional collaboration between consumers and producers for sustainability. It does not apply abstract social rubrics for goals that can have a wide range of interpretations for how or when they are achieved.

Instead, the rubrics for Commodity Ecology comprise a set of 130 different material/technological categories present in three interrelated questions, aided by a regular conference and ideally by the durable connections of a shared mobile phone application used by practitioners, citizens, consumers and producersto talk to each other. 

The questions are:

  • Do we have enough sustainable choices available in this category yet, in this particular region?
  • Are we choosing well in this category toward sustainability yet, in this particular region?
  • How might we help out local consumers, producers and the environment by understanding what products or wastes in one commodity category might be more productively used in other categories?

Stakeholders can talk about material choices while also seeking areas for improvement, discuss the usefulness of wastes and products and also the availability of certain sustainable choices. The latter question can even create an ongoing venue for sharing knowledge of what sustainable markets consumers do want in the future that fail to exist yet in the present. And this, can certainly encourage consumers and producers to pre-develop such choices for the market without exclusively relying on the later market mechanism per se, and it can encourage consumers to invite such a missing producer to their region. 

Overall, the initiative aims to allow both consumers and producers to use the rubric and ongoing meetings as well as the conceived mobile phone application, to get clear on what are their own priorities toward sustainability for more efficient uses of existing products and waste streams economically shared and knitted together. A mobile phone application version of Commodity Ecology  could be used modularly by the whole world once created and released, and it would be an example of ICT4SD (Information and Communication Technologies for Sustainable Development).

The author and creator of Commodity Ecology, Dr. Mark D. Whitaker, is Assistant Professor, Department of Technology and Society, State University of New York - Korea (Republic of Korea)