Tag Archives: buymore

Online Shopping Costs Carbon

Like many people, I find myself doing more of my shopping on Amazon and other e-tailers. I just can’t justify the brick-and-mortar tax at my local big-box retailers. Besides, who has time to go shopping anyhow?

Am I just being lazy? More importantly, what’s the environmental impact of my laziness?

Extra packaging

When goods are shipped to big-box retailers, their retail packages are boxed up on pallets. Hopefully they box them up better than this example. They are generally handled with care, so this seemingly crude boxing isn’t usually a problem. However, when that same retail packages is shipped to you through an e-tailer, it’s repackaged into a larger box filled with packing material. Hopefully you have a an option to recycle that corrugated cardboard and packing material, but regardless, it’s still rather wasteful.

An example of a pallet packed with electronics

Lots of Extra Fuel

These pallets are loaded onto trucks, freight trains, and cargo ships with finite storage volume. Therefore, it’s advantageous that the pallets are packed densely. They’re transported to your local big-box, at which point you typically make small trips to pick up your favorite items.

In the online space, e-tailers receive these same pallets at their distributions centers. There are far few distribution centers, so for the final leg on board semi-trucks, this saves on fuel. However, that’s where it ends. The e-tailer must open the pallets and put the individual retail packages into their bigger boxes and those big boxes are picked up by your favorite carrier services.

Each package is bundled tightly into something similar to a pallet, but at this point they are taking up way more space. More space means more trips by the carrier. Furthermore, a lot of these trips have long portions by air since we just can’t seem to wait a few extra days.

Study Confirms My Intuition

I’m really starting to thing that it’s more efficient for you to shop at a big-box. And it looks like I’m not the only one. This study seems to confirm my intuition.

Shouldn’t Shipping And Handling Cost More

Unfortunately, shipping and handling is way to cheap. Especially with services like Amazon Prime. These carriers are awfully efficient, but in a sense they’re being subsidized in the form of cheap fuel. I’m not saying that they pay less for fuel (although they likely do because they buy it in bulk). I’m actually saying that fuel in America is way to cheap for everyone. If it was more appropriately priced to account for the environmental damage of fossil fuels, then clearly e-shopping would be more expensive and we would all get our lazy selves to our favorite big-box.

Here's my favorite.