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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 Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:20PM (#33643848)

    The product can be shipped to many people in the same street directly from an energy-efficient warehouse rather than from an energy-inefficient store. Goods can be plucked off the fields on demand (reducing the amount of time they need to be in cooled storage). Goods within expiry date are used more efficiently as the ones expiring earlier will be used earlier (smaller stores have very much a problem with expiring goods)...

    No way I'll accept this at all without having seen the actual study.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:21PM (#33643862) Journal

    The store where I used to work shortened its day by about 5 hours. They open one hour later, close 1/2 an hour earlier, and the janitorial staff doesn't show up at 6am anymore, instead waiting until just prior to opening (11am). That reduces A/C costs (both dollars and CO2) by about 20%.

    Of course the store didn't do this for altruistic reasons. It did it because they are only getting half as many shoppers since the Web took over.

  • Re:Disagree (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hex0D (1890162) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:40PM (#33644034)

    T~10,000 boxes carried in one truck is more efficient than 10,000 car trips.

    That is way too over simplified. A truck is still carrying 10K items from the factory 99% (or at least the vast majority) of the distance to your house whether it's to a shipping center or a store. From there, maybe 10K relatively fuel efficient personal vehicles driving to the store is preferable to 10K commercial truck deliveries.

  • Forgotton factor (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dln385 (1451209) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:46PM (#33644086)

    Every weekday at exactly 11:00 AM, the UPS truck drives past my house. Whenever I purchase goods online, the UPS truck drops it off at 11:00 AM. What's the carbon footprint of my order? I would have to guess virtually zero.

  • by Suki I (1546431) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:54PM (#33644162) Homepage Journal

    Who shops online for environmental reasons?

    I know people who do too. It never made sense to me either. I do it for the convenience, but not for anything I need to try on before deciding, like shoes.

    Similar thought, I was all revved up to try Best Buy order online and pick up at the store service until a friend did it. He was livid, waiting all day and finally having to call to see if the items had been picked, then going there and finding they picked some of the wrong items. His advice: see if they have everything you want in stock then go there yourself and pick it from the shelf.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday September 20, 2010 @09:17PM (#33644366)

    I tried this once too, a cheap netbook. First they claimed they could not find it, then they tried to give me the wrong one, then they refused to give me one off the shelf since I had already paid and would have to take the unit they set aside for me. It took 45 minutes to get a ~$200 toy they had on the damn shelf.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2010 @09:34PM (#33644496)
    I've nothing buy good experiences with BBY instore pickup. I've used it about 5 times at two different stores over the past year and both times they had it ready to go before I was ready to go get it (less than 30 mins) The purchases ranged from a $10 web cam to a Mac mini, so I doubt that had anything to do with it.
  • by afidel (530433) on Monday September 20, 2010 @10:04PM (#33644670)
    I do, but it's mostly non-physical goods, ie buy an MP3 album instead of a CD or a video download instead of buying a DVD. There's also anything that uses USPS, since they are stopping at my house anyways it has to be more fuel efficient to throw a disc on a plane (few ounces) than for me to drive 10+ miles to the nearest video store with a decent selection.
  • by alizard (107678) <alizard AT ecis DOT com> on Monday September 20, 2010 @11:46PM (#33645362) Homepage
    in this area, just the only one I know of that's come to this . . . interesting conclusion.

    While I agree with you that the press release the original post linked to has no substantial content, frankly, I don't care whether the study was rigged through cherry-picking data or simple incompetence on the part of the researchers. Though I'll be automatically discounting any research from this academic institution in future (their credibility from my POV just dropped to Oral Roberts University level) and I recommend everyone else do the same.

    All I'm curious about is who paid for this study.
  • by arkane1234 (457605) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @12:37AM (#33645612) Journal

    Reminds me of the time a couple weeks ago I went into Staples to mail something through UPS, and I looked at Bluetooth earpieces afterwards. After looking at them, I was interested in one so I looked for a box to take up to the register to pay for. I found out they had no stock, and when I asked the girl at the register she said she can quickly order through their convenient website and it'll be there in 7-14 days. I told her I could shop through a zillion websites... I held back the fact that if I truly was looking for a bluetooth for a decent price, it's cheaper online...
    They forget that brick & mortar shops have that instant gratification which you can't get online. If they give that up, they may as well close up or just open a Sears style online-purchase pickup area.. but for their whole store.

  • by mcvos (645701) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @06:18AM (#33646982)

    Amsterdam's layout is the result of two things: trade and the swamp. We didn't need city walls because armies couldn't cross the swamp anyway. But we needed lots of canals to ferry goods between warehouses and the sea port, and then more canals and even more, moving the port around a couple of times, and all of this around the curvy Amstel river and in the middle of a swamp where some parts need more drainage than others. Later parts of the city follow the lines of roads that went through the swamp.

    There's just no way you're ever going to get anything gridlike out of a situation like that. We only have grid structures in the very newest parts of the city, and more gridlike they are, the more boring they are. Irregularity is fun.

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