Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Greener shipping for online shopping

I was looking around Global Exchange's fair trade store online and came across some tips for greening your online shopping. Two of them were things I'd never really thought about before, but will be keeping in mind from now on, and hopefully you will too:

  • Choose ground shipping. According to Global Exchange, air shipping generates five times the emissions as shipping by truck. (Six, says the Natural Resources Defense Council.) And according to this New York Times op-ed, overnight shipping is especially bad because nighttime flights cause twice the pollution of daytime flights.
  • Ship your packages to your workplace. If you're in an office of reasonable size, there are probably other deliveries scheduled every day, which will mean less emissions than a truck making an extra trip to your house.
And as to whether it's worse for the environment to shop online in the first place? Apparently it depends-- the physical warehouses for online "stores" use less energy than traditional stores, and many cars driving to a mall can be worse than one truck hauling goods a couple hundred miles. On the other hand, many of these products will be traveling quite a distance. According to one study, if the package is coming from more than 750 miles away and/or your brick-and-mortar alternative is less than 2 miles away, it's better to drive the store in person. (And if you can walk, bike, or take public transit, that'll increase the in-person advantage.)

Something else to keep in mind: online purchases tend to use more packaging than similar products at your local store, which means more energy and resources to create the packaging and more waste in the end. So try to look into the packaging practices of online retailers (many socially conscious online stores are better about it), and be sure to reuse or recycle the materials you receive-- for packing peanuts, there's even a hotline you can call (800-828-2214, or visit the website) to find one of 1,500 sites nationwide that will accept the peanuts for reuse.

1 comment:

bpt said...

About driving to a local store vs. having an item shipped, say, 750 miles. The item was shipped to your local store, too, probably from China to a distributer, from a distributer to a wholesaler, and from teh wholesaler to the retailer. Of course it was shipped in bulk, but still, it is really hard to tease out what makes sense for manufactured items. Ideally one could buy something made locally, but that's almost impossible in the 21st century. Even if it's put together locally, the parts surely come from elsewhere....
PS the overnight shipping options are might expensive, as well as resource intensive! Plan ahead!