Moving Manufacturing from China to Mexico or Poland Will Help the World

1. Moving Manufacturing from China to Mexico or Poland Will Reduce Energy Consumption and Pollution

Moving manufacturing from China to Mexico or Poland will help the world by reducing energy consumption and pollution. Moving manufacturing from China to Mexico or Poland will help the world by reducing energy consumption and pollution.

There I said it. And I deliberately said it twice for effect and to get you thinking long and hard about it. Products sourced from China come with countless and substantial hidden costs, including (and as we lawyers love to say: “but not limited to”) environmental costs, on which this post is going to focus. Subsequent posts will focus on various other hidden costs inherent in China product sourcing and various efforts being made to reduce the world’s dependence on China products.

2. Kids Say the Darndest Things

I have two wonderful daughters, both of whom have wonderful significant others. These “kids” range in age from 24 to 31 and I mention them because they have played a big role in my thinking that led to this blog post. As is true of just about everyone of their generations (Gen Y and Gen Z), they are obsessed with climate change and social justice — as they should be. One of the many things I love about having kids is how much I learn from them. I am the exact opposite of those who believe kids should be seen, not heard; I actually relish every time they correct me. Their corrections enable me to stay “hip and cool and au courant“, all of which words make them cringe and cause them to correct me.

But I digress. But just a little bit.

3. Conscious Consumerism

I said these kids are obsessed with climate change (it is after all THEIR futures that are on the line) and one of the things they’ve done is made me sensitive about not harming the environment. I am constantly striving to be mindful of my environmental impact and I try (within reason) to do what I can to minimize that. I have reduced my use of paper towels and paper napkins to almost nothing. I virtually never use plastic bags of any kind. And I’ve become obsessed about buying local and reducing my buying footprint.  

Take honey as an example. Few people have not been the recipient of my efforts to scare them into buying local honey. If you buy honey made locally (check out true source honey), you cut down drastically on shipping, and likely packaging as well. As for the scare part, if you are buying honey of unknown provenance it likely contains honey from China, which has a long and sordid record (like many other food and other products from China) of being fake (sugar water) and/or tainted with antibiotics and/or heavy metals.

Soap is another example of where you can easily and painlessly reduce your environmental footprint. I studied this after “the kids” were appalled at my having bought a six pack of liquid hand soap. “Liquid soaps . . . require five times the energy to produce and 20 times the energy for packaging (in plastic bottles).” See Bar vs. Liquid Soap.

4. Moving Manufacturing from China to Mexico or Poland Will Help

The United States and the EU together consume a huge amount of the world’s production and much of what they get comes from China. Imagine if all U.S. honey and soap (I pick these products only because I already picked these products above) came from Mexico and all EU honey and soap came from Poland. Energy consumption and packaging waste would decline. Now add in all the other products the EU and the United States get from China and you ought to see where I am going here.

Compare the energy consumption and the pollution generated by shipping honey from Guangzhou to Seattle or from Guangzhou to Madrid, as compared to transporting honey within the Seattle area or from León to Madrid.

I am using Mexico and Poland as shorthand for countries near the United States and the EU, but of course, if a country like Panama substitutes Mexican for Chinese products, the world will benefit from that as well, just as would be the case if Russia were to substitute products from Poland for those from China.

I realize that near-sourcing your honey is not the same thing as near-sourcing your car or your vacuum cleaner or your winter coat, but the differences are less than they first may appear.

Take cars for instance. Mexico makes a huge number of different brand cars for export to the United States and to Canada and Poland makes a huge number of cars for export to the EU. Whether you are a manufacturer or a consumer, you can have your car manufactured in China and maybe save a few bucks on production (even after subtracting out the added costs to ship that car to the EU or the United States), or you could have that same car manufactured in Mexico or Poland and lessen its environmental impact. The same holds true on a lesser scale for vacuum cleaners and winter coats, though finding a vacuum cleaner not made in China is considerably more difficult.

I also realize that the above analysis on moving manufacturing from China to Mexico or Poland does not necessarily apply to countries like Japan and South Korea.

Do you agree with the above? I would love to hear your thoughts.