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Online Shopping May Actually Increase Pollution 410

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-not-easy-being-green dept.
destinyland writes "British researchers have reached a startling conclusion. Unless online shoppers order 25 items at a time, they're polluting more than if they shopped at their local mall. An environmental benefit only occurs 'if online shopping replaces 3.5 traditional shopping trips, or if 25 orders are delivered at the same time, or, if the distance traveled to where the purchase is made is more than 50 kilometers. Shopping online does not offer net environmental benefits unless these criteria are met.' The study was conducted by Newcastle University's Institution of Engineering and Technology, which blames the environmental impact of transportation, warning that 'policy makers must do their homework to ensure that rebound effects do not negate the positive benefits of their policy initiatives.' But one technology site notes the study was conducted in Britain, which could have an impact on its conclusions."
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Online Shopping May Actually Increase Pollution

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  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Monday September 20, 2010 @07:33PM (#33643982) Homepage Journal

    Last time I was in London (some years now), I was appalled at the traffic, and the disorganized nature of the city's layout. Can't say I've experienced anything like that in the US, and I've driven in a lot of US cities. Los Angeles and every Florida city I've ever been in come to mind as the most annoying, because they're so spread-out; it takes more driving to get anywhere, and that might be comparable on some level. Where I live (Montana), we're definitely in the "over 50km" class; heck, it's 140 miles to the nearest city, and that's not even in my state. If I want to shop in a city without sales tax (and oh yes, you can bet I do) then staying in-state, it's a 300 mile drive, or 482km. As you might imagine, we're definitely fans of Internet shopping!

  • by EdZ (755139) on Monday September 20, 2010 @07:45PM (#33644078)
    That's mainly because parts of London were laid out prior to the horse & cart, and the vast majority pre-automobile.
    Lay out a 'modern' city in grid-form, and you get... Ugh... Milton Keynes.
  • by timeOday (582209) on Monday September 20, 2010 @07:57PM (#33644202)
    Unfortunately the linked article doesn't contain enough meat for meaningful discussion. If this is just another [sandia.gov] fairly blind application of Jevons Paradox [wikipedia.org] (soon to become a slashdot meme!) then I'm not too interested.
  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:10PM (#33644320) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, I get why... I'm just saying, gee, that might affect an analysis of how efficient home delivery vs. local shopping might be.

    Lay out a 'modern' city in grid-form, and you get... Ugh... Milton Keynes.

    Not always. Look at Manhattan... nominally laid out in a grid, yet down in Greenwich Village, there's at least one street that actually crosses itself, I don't remember which one anymore. I think city designers might do a lot of drugs. Or simply delight in confusing people.

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:32PM (#33644470)

    Yeah, really. I shop at Newegg to get cheaper computer parts (before I knew about it, I was going to places like Walmart, and I've seen 120GB external hard drives for over $100 there!).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:37PM (#33644520)

    I agree.

    Having worked for an air freight company, I can tell you the trucks and planes go the same place every day regardless of how much cargo there is. In fact, if there are "2 or 3 day air packages, or even ground", and there is reserve capacity on the airplane -- it flies. It does not cost extra to load more cargo on a DC-10 that you already paid for and fueled. It does cost extra to run a truck with a freight containers to the same location.

    The end game is to send every vehicle full to capacity, and limit the number of vehicles. Freight companies do this all the time, not to limit environmental impact, but to save fuel costs. Every freight carrier runs this equation daily....and even hourly.

    As for delivery, the truck is there every day anyway. It doesn't cost very much to stop. It does cost money to fire up your gas powered vehicle and drive to the mall, which is where the trucks go anyway.

    Two trips or one.....take your pick....

  • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:49PM (#33644592) Journal
    The oldest sections of Manhattan (at the south end) are laid out hodgepodge because there was really no planning there. Horse and carts didn't guarantee logically laid out streets. More likely they were laid out by what land was least muddy in the rain or some other parameter that old cities seemed to use. e.g. some wide boulevards in some cities are wide because when it would rain and the cart track got too muddy they would travel beside it until it too got too muddy, and then they would make a new path beside it... and so on... until the first track finally returned to a state that it can be driven on. Buildings would be built far enough apart to allow this and then paved over into wide boulevards when cars came. No better reason than that. Ad hoc planning. South Manhattan was like that. Then they hired some surveyor (can't remember his name) and he laid out a grid pattern over all the remaining unurbanized (farms etc.) land; on which any expansion of the city would be built on. It just happened that the city was built at the cross over time between WTF urban planning and some sort of rational planning.
  • by SharpFang (651121) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @01:12AM (#33645982) Homepage Journal

    Most old cities of Europe were laid for city walls. City walls being expensive and hard to expand, the cities were laid out in circular pattern with central market and roads rexpanding radially, street circles connecting them and more radial streets added as the roads were getting further apart. If more towns were near to each other, where they met while expanding the layout was very chaotic, two unequally growing radial patterns meeting. Also, squeezing as much as possible within city walls, with chaotic land purchase/inheritance patterns often led to very chaotic city center layout... see Prague.

  • Re:*thwack!* (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheLink (130905) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @02:44AM (#33646410) Journal

    If efficiency is your goal, you should do it the Foxconn way.

    Basically you live, work and eat in the factory-city (some even die there ;) ). The factory-city even has its own chicken farm producing eggs for the factory cafeterias: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_38/b4195058423479_page_3.htm [businessweek.com]

    No need to waste time, space and resources to have the workers go shopping for different stuff, cook their own meals and storing surpluses in their own refrigerators and stores.

    Instead of:
    farms -> hypermarkets -> shopping commutes -> fridge/store -> kitchen -> consumption point

    You have:
    farms -> cafeteria fridge/store -> cafeteria kitchen -> consumption point

    When done right, this way will be less polluting than the "western suburban method". It may not make for a better lifestyle, but if efficiency is the goal, this is what you do.

    FWIW, if you live in a city (normal not factory) that's suitable for pedestrians it might actually not be so inefficient to eat out assuming you go to restaurants that are similar in efficiencies as hypermarkets.

    farms -> restaurant fridge/store -> restaurant kitchen -> consumption point.

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.

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