TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. We're going to talk about a subject that you probably never think about, the huge distances that the components of your smartphone, the beans in your coffee, the can that your soda is in - even the socks in your drawer - the distance they've traveled before you purchased them. And we're going to talk about the consequences of all that transportation. Think of it as your transportation footprint.Visit Edward Humes's website.
My guest, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edward Humes, is the author of the new book "Door To Door," which he describes as a transportation detective story about the hidden characters, locations, myths and machinery driving our buy-it-now, same-day delivery, traffic-packed world. Humes is interested in the hidden price we pay for the things we take for granted. His previous book, "Garbology," was about the afterlife of our trash. Edward Humes, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Let's start with your morning cup of coffee. Simple thing, coffee - how does transportation figure into your morning cup?
EDWARD HUMES: Let's just look at the beans - to blend the beans - and I buy it by the bag. There's going to be about 30,000 miles accumulated over the course of the transportation of that coffee from various countries, brokered nations. It's going to be shipped by mega-container ships, by trucks, by rail perhaps. The particular French roast I looked at was - it came out around roughly 30,000 miles. And that's just for the beans to get from the point of origin to my house. And that's not counting the water used to make the coffee, which is also transported, the electricity that powers my coffeemaker, the coffeemaker itself, the filter, the packaging. If you start adding in all that, your cup of coffee's traveled a couple of times around the world before, you know, you take your first sip.
GROSS: Why do I care?
HUMES: Well, I think it's relevant to know where your stuff comes from. I mean, that was what I started writing this book in order to do because I was surprisingly ignorant about how things come to us and what it takes to keep your home supplied with things like coffee or socks or smartphones, whatever product you want to look at. There's a huge transportation footprint. And there's a huge cost attached to that. We live in a very unusual world unlike previous eras, where...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Force of Nature.
The Page 99 Test: Garbology.