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What's Your Slavery Footprint?

Learn more about what you buy and where it comes from


There's a kind of constant fantasy that we Americans perpetuate that everything we buy is paid for fairly all the way down to its source material. That the clothes you're wearing were made by workers earning living wages, that the cotton they spin into blue jeans was picked by people who get to go home after working eight hour shifts. Either we keep that fantasy in our heads or we don't think very much about where our stuff comes from at all. We buy it at the store from friendly salespeople who are presumably making enough to get by and that's about all we know about it. 

But the truth is that we depend upon a lot of injustice in order to keep things as cheap as they are in this country. Go far enough down the line, and you'll even start dealing with straight-up slave labor. Those shoes you're wearing, that phone you're texting with, that computer you're using? Don't be surprised if all these things got to you, at least in part, via the hands of slaves.

You can check to see exactly how many unpaid workers are working for you thanks to the folks over at Slavery Footprint. Just take a brief quiz about your consumer habits--what kind of clothes you own, what kind of food you eat, how you get around on a day to day basis--and the widget will calculate how many slaves you depend on. 

I got 28. That's a lot more than I was expecting, as I have a pretty light consumer footprint. But then again, even one would be a lot more than I'm comfortable with. Based on what's known about the sourcing tendencies of certain companies, coupled with labor statistics of certain countries, the website can tally up a number for you. It should probably make you uncomfortable. It did for me. 

Once you know your own slavery footprint, you can set about learning which brands have questionable sources and which are probably OK. Of course, it's hard to trace every element of every product ever made. If you have anywhere near average consumer habits, lots of what you buy will have some kind of sketchy background. The supply chain in this country just isn't clean. Most of our products come from cheap sources overseas. It's hard to track them down. But by putting what information is known out there for the public to take in, Slavery Footprint is helping to connect consumers to the products they buy. They've developed an app that helps you look up the sources of potential purchases on the go so you can start to steer yourself away from unethically sourced brands and towards a freer world.