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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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  • *thwack!* (Score:3, Funny)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Monday September 20, 2010 @07:59PM (#33643644)

    But one technology site notes the study was conducted in Britain, which could have an impact on its conclusions."

    Ya think, Dinozzo?

    • by Pojut (1027544) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:06PM (#33643698) Homepage

      I believe that's what the old folks call an "I coulda had a V-8" moment...

      • by fyngyrz (762201) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:33PM (#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 @08:45PM (#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 fyngyrz (762201) on Monday September 20, 2010 @09:10PM (#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 theshowmecanuck (703852) on Monday September 20, 2010 @09:49PM (#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.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by arivanov (12034)

            So is Dresden, Berlin, Koln, Helsinki, Paris, etc. That somehow does not prevent them from finding a way.

          • by SharpFang (651121) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @02:12AM (#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.

            • 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.

        • by gilleain (1310105) on Monday September 20, 2010 @09:01PM (#33644242)

          Last time I was in London (some years now), I was appalled at the traffic, and the disorganized nature of the city's layout

          Well, we tried burning it down in 1666, but that didn't quite work. Paris did a better job, but they had Napoleon.

          • by wvmarle (1070040) on Monday September 20, 2010 @11:00PM (#33645058)

            Paris also had to do with helping the police/military crack down on revolutionists. The thing is the locals were perfectly happy with the maze, they just knew their way around. The police trying to track down those revolutionaries not: they got lost, and were an easy target. That's why there was this redesign, and nowadays Paris has these huge boulevards.

            Many European cities to this day are like that, a bit like a maze, mainly because they grew organically, without any central planning. Newly built neighbourhoods nowadays are also often built with bending roads, not so straight. Because it looks nicer, and it slows down cars (for safety).

            • by sodul (833177) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @01:07AM (#33645738) Homepage

              An other big think about street 'planning' in older european cities is that they grew with constraints: the population had to fit within the city walls for protection. As the population grew, more walls would be built further out. Usually the gates from the new walls would not align with the previous one to help break the flow of an invading army. So what seem as a wtf planning nowadays was actually tactical warfare at the time.

              Grand parent is correct that the large pathways in Paris date from Napoleon. At this time, medieval tactics and city walls were obsolete so being able to send troops quickly to quell a rebelion was much more important than to plan for a siege.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          London grew naturally, over hundreds of years - it wasn't designed for car traffic, which is actually a good thing for the long term.

        • by rainmouse (1784278) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @04:40AM (#33646582)

          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!

          This is definately reflected by looking at the sizes of the UK vs USA. For example Texas is 268601 square miles, Great Britain is only 80823 square miles. So you could fit Great Britain 3.3 times inside Texas. The population of Texas is 24.7 million, of GBR it is 58 million. That by my rough calculations (unless I've made a numerical mistake), this makes the population density of the UK almost 8 times that of Texas.

          On a side note I'm curious how the US postal service survives. The UK postal service is on the brink of financial collapse and is for privatisation. If at a rough estimation, the US postal service has to travel up to 8 times the distance per person (in some areas), how the hell do they manage to stay afloat? Clearly the UK postal service needs to hire some of the guys the Americans have running their postal service and get rid of the imbeciles that run the British Royal Mail.

      • I believe that's what the old folks call an "I coulda had a V-8" moment...

        I think it's more akin to House saying, "You're an idiot."

  • Begs the question. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RightSaidFred99 (874576) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:05PM (#33643690)

    Who shops online for environmental reasons?

    • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:16PM (#33643804) Journal

      (raises hand)

      Although I admit my main motive is not solely pollution, but also eliminating the 5 dollar and 45-60 minute cost of the drive. I'd like to work from home for the same reason.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Suki I (1546431)

      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

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jridley (9305)

        I've got better advice. Stay the hell away from Best Buy. What a hole. Moronic salespeople, highest prices around, bad selection, worst technicians on the planet, and a corporate policy to intentionally drive off people who are actually shopping for a good deal.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by h4rr4r (612664)

        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.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        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 jridley (9305)

      I do. But I think I may qualify for one of those exemptions. On the rare occasions that I do go out to buy something, it's at least 40 kilometers if I just go somewhere and back again, and usually it's more than 50 kilometers.

      But I also shop online to save my own time. It's at least an hour, more likely two of my time to go out and buy something. Translated into working overtime instead, that shopping trip cost me $50 or more just in time wasted.

      Also, I have access to much better information and can mak

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      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 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 jewishbaconzombies (1861376) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:06PM (#33643708)
    The moral of the story? Save the planet. Kill yourself.
    • by compro01 (777531) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:22PM (#33643870)

      Do you have any idea how much gas people will burn to get to your funeral? Or how much GHGs will be released to make your coffin? Or methane your rotting corpse will release or how much energy would be used to cremate it?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:46PM (#33644090)

        Do you have any idea how much gas people will burn to get to your funeral? Or how much GHGs will be released to make your coffin? Or methane your rotting corpse will release or how much energy would be used to cremate it?

        You're right...kill all your friend and family first, eat them all, then kill yourself by jumping into a tank full of barracuda.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bm_luethke (253362)

        Not much energy to cremate if we all killed ourselves - no one to run the crematoriums. Further the Methane from rotting would be less than many natural source we have now - plus since it is all in one big month long rotting fest it isn't like years of accumulation. It's not like the earth doesn't have natural scrubbers of green house gasses (otherwise known as plants and many types of bacteria).

        There are two basic ways for us to lower pollution output: stop living our modern high energy lifestyles or have

    • by couchslug (175151) on Monday September 20, 2010 @09:05PM (#33644276)

      "The moral of the story? Save the planet. Kill yourself."

      Do I get pollution tax credits for killing others?

  • by dracocat (554744) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:07PM (#33643710)

    The article talked a lot about transportation costs. Were they just comparing transportation costs? What about the environmental impact of keeping the A/C running and lights going all day in the store?

    Very very short on details.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      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.

    • by timeOday (582209) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:57PM (#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 crovira (10242) on Monday September 20, 2010 @09:06PM (#33644286) Homepage

      Its not the end purchaser who realizes some environmental benefits, its the shipper.

      Its not about Joe Schmoe's environmental impact, its about Amazon and UPS and Fed Ex and USPS combined carbon footprint versus the environmental impact of all the Joe Schmoes out there.

      This was bogus science starting from a false premise.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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

  • I don't understand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iONiUM (530420) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:09PM (#33643742) Homepage Journal

    So hundreds of people can be served by 1 computer (no need for sales people, which would require many to drive to/from the store), at home (they don't have to travel themselves), using the power they have on at home anyways (no need for store power), and this is somehow more than the store? I understand the actual product has shipping pollution, but I mean come on, that can't make up for everything else.

    I'm confused.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

      • 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 rec
    • by Shadow99_1 (86250)

      For the US this would make even less sense... Only 4 companies handle packages like: UPS, Fedex, USPS, and one I can't recall because I've never actually used it myself... Which would imply rather than every single person having to make their driving more efficient 4 companies would... That seems an order of magnitude easier to me...

      • by jridley (9305)

        DHL, Airborne plus thousands of independents. Also, Fedex Ground is a separate company from Fedex, sharing just the name. (Also, Fedex rocks, Fedex Ground sucks.) But that gets it up to 6 majors, and there may be more.

        OK, DHL and Airborne aren't as big as the others but they're not small.

      • Even if you factor in all the companies who handle small parcel shipping (say under 100 lbs/box) it is still a lot more efficient and has a much smaller carbon footprint that the hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands and millions of parcels that are delivered everyday.

        It gets even more efficient if we take how many railroad car-full of products get shipped to regional centers. (What? You think TigerDirect doesn't send their supplier's stuff to UPS warehouses and lets customers' orders ship from the c

    • by syousef (465911)

      There's nothing to be confused about. People simply lose the ability to think rationally once the emotive issue of the environment comes up. Instead they run around like headless chickens doing stupid things because their emotional buttons have been pushed.

  • Disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:10PM (#33643750) Journal

    The postwoman is already driving past my house every day. It takes no extra gasoline for her to carry that latest Amazon book or Electronic Boutique game with her.

    Plus the freight trucks that move this crap across the country burn far less gas than if we all drove to the store. ~10,000 boxes carried in one truck is more efficient than 10,000 car trips.

    • Re:Disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jrumney (197329) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:14PM (#33643782) Homepage

      Plus the freight trucks that move this crap across the country burn far less gas than if we all drove to the store.

      Apparently goods are teleported into stores, so those large freight trucks are only involved when you buy things online.

      Really, the only variable is you driving to the store for a single purchase, vs a delivery driver including your house in their rounds (a slight detour from what they would have done anyway).

      • Excellent point.
        • by Suki I (1546431)

          Excellent point.

          I haven't spent much time around high-rises, but the times I have seen UPS and FedEx show up it was like they emptied the whole truck just for one building. Like the rest of you are saying, it doesn't matter if each apartment is getting one item a day or not, that truck full of boxes is coming in every day.

          • by hedwards (940851)
            If you happen to live in an apartment, that's largely the case. But not entirely, Fed Ex will always use at least 2 trucks to service a building in the US. One for Fed Ex ground and one for Fed Ex special, or whatever it is that they call their air unit.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ensignyu (417022)

      It does take space, though. If the mail truck is full because lots of people are shipping stuff in the mail, they'd either have to do multiple runs or delay getting the package to you package. Or upgrade to those giant delivery trucks that UPS uses.

      Besides shipping costs, though, online shopping currently generates a lot of excess packaging. Every time I order something online, I have to toss yet another cardboard box and the plastic bubble wrap in the recycle bin. I'd like to see some kind of reusable pack

      • But the postal service is more likely to upgrade to lower-energy fleet (CNG or some sort of electric thing) than each and every household is, making the concentration of energy consumption beneficial.

        >> cardboard box and the plastic bubble wrap
        >> I'd like to see some kind of reusable packaging.

        Does not compute.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hex0D (1890162)

      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.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        Which is why some retailers actually have multiple warehouses located throughout the country. Netflix and Gamefly are good examples, but Tigerdirect also does that and I'm sure that there's others. In fact shopatron makes that it's business model, handling and distributing orders based upon geography.
      • Without hard numbers in a specific situation it's difficult to say for certain, but I have to imagine that 1,000 trucks (10 boxes each), running a warmed engine, on a route designed to maximize efficiency, in a fleet vehicle that might already use CNG, has to be more efficient than 10,000 cars being cold started and driven three miles to a store and back.

        Now, if those 10,000 cars are stopping off at a store on the way home, as a slight detour, then the incremental energy costs are probably minimal, and I'd

      • Re:Disagree (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Rakishi (759894) on Monday September 20, 2010 @09:39PM (#33644540)

        From there, maybe 10K relatively fuel efficient personal vehicles driving to the store is preferable to 10K commercial truck deliveries.

        I'd seriously doubt that. Assuming some routing efficiency the trucks will travel only a fraction of the miles the cars do per package.

    • by ProppaT (557551)

      You can't have it both ways. With the same logic, you could have picked up that same game while you were already at Target and had zero additional impact. If the truck is already driving by your house, I'm sure you're already driving by the store at some point.

      Sure, the UPS truck is already out making rounds, but you add in all the extra stops for UPS/USPS/FedEx across the country due to people buying singular items off of Amazon just because it was a bit cheaper than the store and that adds up quickly.

    • One thing i've noticed in the UK is that while small online purchases (one book, one game, a small bag of components etc) are indeed often sent through the ordinary post and delivered by the postman anything slightly bigger or more valuable than that and it will most likely be sent by a courier and there are a LOT of different couriers so presumablly their delivery density is pretty low.

      Though what happens with electronic components makes the consumer stuff look positively eco friendly. Considerable overpac

  • by oDDmON oUT (231200) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:18PM (#33643824)

    For a "pollution" tax on online transactions, since sales taxes still fail to pass muster.

    After all, "It's for the planet".

    • Why is this a troll?

      Really, what is my State Attorney General's office going to do to help with something out of state? Chuckle and say "contact the AG in that state" probably. So why should I be paying sales tax?

      And on top of that there are also local taxes, some of which cannot be calculated by ZIP code. So there is additional cost for these online stores to deal with because the government doesn't feel its current taxation methods are sufficient.

  • by Chmcginn (201645) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:19PM (#33643834) Journal

    Not having the actual study, it's hard to say, but it seems like there's some big assumptions here.

    For instance:

    It also highlights that working from home can increase home energy use by as much as 30 per cent, and can lead to people moving further from the workplace, stretching urban sprawl and increasing pollution.

    Sure, it's going to increase home electric usage. One would hope, though, that the employer doesn't keep all the equipment running - which means the majority of that is just being shifted, not created anew. As far as increasing pollution from transportation, that I don't get at all. Suppose I work from home three days a week. To spend the same amount on driving, I'd need to move two and a half times as far away. And even then, I probably wouldn't, since it would mean more highway miles and less downtown miles. How many people are going to move from a twenty-mile commute to a fifty-mile commute just because they're working from home Tuesday - Thursday this year?

    And if the employer set up the work-from-home program permanently, they can get a smaller building since they know 60% or more or staff is home every non-meeting day. So then there's likely very little extra electric usage.

    • >>>which means the majority of that is just being shifted, not created anew.

      And even if the electricity did go up, the overall *energy* usage would be less than moving a ~4000 pound vehicle across ~50 miles (typical american commute). Moving electrons across wires is far more energy efficient than moving people back-and-forth to work. Staying home uses FAR less energy overall.

      • by Chmcginn (201645)

        And even if the electricity did go up, the overall *energy* usage would be less than moving a ~4000 pound vehicle across ~50 miles (typical american commute).

        Exactly. Although, I think maybe that was part of their 'this was in Britain, so YMMV' statement at the end.

        If the average upper-middle-class British commute is much shorter, it could drive up transportation costs. If they originally lived two miles from the workplace when it was five days a week, and then when it became a once-a-week deal, they got

    • by seebs (15766)

      I don't buy this "urban sprawl" thing. Yes, I work far from my office. About 25 miles, I think. I dunno; I go there maybe once a month.

      Instead, I live in a small town, about six blocks from the grocery store, which I walk to nearly every day. I need to pick up prescriptions? I walk to the drug store. Wanna browse the used bookstore? I walk there. Going out for lunch? I walk.

      Trips up to the Big City to go shopping are isolated, and we go two or three places on a single trip.

      When I lived in a city, n

      • There are plenty of places that don't have a grocery store, book store, or drug store within walking distance. In our town, I've seen someone get up in front of the planning and zoning commission and complain about the city's attempts to attract retail, because if they wanted to live near commercial things they would have moved somewhere else. I've seen one of our council members say "I like sprawl. I make my living on sprawl." as he had wording about walkable neighborhoods and easy access to nearby conv

    • by blair1q (305137)

      Assumptions cover your ass. Especially if you state them in the introduction to your paper.

  • Postal Service (Score:3, Insightful)

    by failedlogic (627314) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:20PM (#33643846)

    The biggest 'environmental' problem IMO the "failed delivery attempt" to many residential locations ... much wated gas. They should just setup a few centralized pickup locations in urbanized areas (provided, of course, the real estate is available and 'cheap' enough to keep rates low).

    What I don't understand is why the post office (at least Canada Post) and the major shippers UPS, FedEX must make a delivery to your house should you order something. I can see they want to make sure you exist and that you have an address. Most people work and its not always practical to have goods delivered to work.

    I've had a few things shipped with UPS and FedEX - low dollar value e.g. under $200. When I wasn't available to pickup it was a huge headache to get them to drop off at an alternate location. I live in a major city and their pickup/warehouse place is next to the airport - a good 40 minute commute.

    • by compro01 (777531)

      What I don't understand is why the post office (at least Canada Post) and the major shippers UPS, FedEX must make a delivery to your house should you order something

      As far as I know, they aren't. I hardly ever have anything delivered to my door unless it was shipped via Purolator (Their truck drives right past my house every weekday at 4pm). Anything sent via UPS I can pick up at the courier office (which is about 30 minutes away, or I can wait til they send a truck out my way on Thursdays), whereas Fedex punts to Canada Post for delivery, and it ends up in my mailbox.

      OTOH, I'm in Saskatchewan and live in a tiny village, so YMMV.

    • Here in Portugal we have plenty of post offices, at least in the cities, and if the package is large enough for the mailman to know it won't fit in the box (depends on the mailman - some won't deliver any package, even small), they'll just write a notice card and let you pickup the package at the post office.

  • Compromise (Score:3, Funny)

    by T Murphy (1054674) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:22PM (#33643866) Journal
    So what if I go to the store and have them order stuff online for me from there? Does it all cancel out and create zero pollution?
    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      Better than that, the pollution from the factories actually goes back in!

      So if anyone orders something online that ends up smelling like smoke, it's T Murphy's fault.

  • by kurokame (1764228) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:23PM (#33643878)

    The problem here is that many potential scenarios are being reduced to a blanket statement in the media.

    Two examples.

    Say I live a block from a major chain grocer. They have trucks coming and going to deliver their produce and other stock, which pollute at some rate. Now say I can either walk a block and buy a bag of carrots, or I can order one from their delivery service. If I walk, I'm polluting at whatever rate corresponds to a human walking - pretty low, probably around what it would be if I was just sitting at home doing nothing, and slightly beneficial to my health. If I order it, a truck picks up a batch of groceries from the store and then drives to my home and several others. For this, it's probably true that the second case has a significant pollution margin compared to the first case. This does not make the second case a major pollutant source, just one which is likely greater than the first case.

    Now say I want to order a mattress. I could rent a van, go driving around to several mattress shops, and drive my purchase home. Alternately, I could use public transit to visit several stores and then have one delivered in a truck along with several other deliveries. Maybe the truck is diesel and the van uses unleaded. Okay...it's probably true that the truck pollutes less than if everyone it's delivering to drives to the store themselves.

    What the heck are they comparing here? All in-person purchases to all online purchases? All deliveries? Yes, I chose extremes - because they're a good way to illustrate that the article is making some unsupportable blanket statements. If the question is buying a shirt from Target versus getting it online...well, it's harder to say which is better. Using a car probably pollutes more than delivery or public transit - one engine tends to be less wasteful than dozens. But of the remaining two? Okay, the bus was going there with or without you, but the FedEx truck was driving its route with or without you as well. Maybe the difference isn't all that large.

    The bigger problem here is that modern environmentalism is riddled with this sort of irresponsible reporting. Did it arise from the media article or from the researchers? Who knows. Both have been known to be guilty of this, although it's often the simple case of journalists being given topics to report on which they lack the competency to interpret accurately. But FUD and panic aren't going to save the planet.

  • by unitron (5733) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:28PM (#33643914) Homepage Journal

    The last sentence says "But one technology site notes the study was conducted in Britain, which could have an impact on its conclusions.", which makes it sound as though conducting studies in Britain, rather than elsewhere, is much more likely to skew results somehow, but the actual article on said technology site merely points out that the results obtained are the results you get with the conditions one finds in Britain, and that conducting the study in other countries with differing transportation systems, population densities, topographical and climatological features, et cetera, might produce differing results.

    As for shopping locally or online, I go where I can find what I want (or, more likely, what I'm willing to settle for) at a price I can stomach and obtain this most quickly and conveniently. Sometimes that's local, sometimes not. Usually it's neither and I have to make do without.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      > The last sentence says "But one technology site notes the study was conducted
      > in Britain, which could have an impact on its conclusions.", which makes it
      > sound as though conducting studies in Britain, rather than elsewhere, is much
      > more likely to skew results somehow

      Yes. It's the Tories!

    • by Eskarel (565631)

      Britain has very different population and transport patterns than the US.

      As a specific example, the delineation between the city and the country is rather more extreme than is the case in most US cities, and due to property prices, commuting distances of two or more hours each way are not by any means unusual or unheard of. Combined with a substantially better public transport network than is present in the US, and you can see how things would be very different.

      If you're driving or taking the train into the

  • Conclusion (Score:4, Funny)

    by DraconPern (521756) <{moc.liamtoh} {ta} {nrepnocard}> on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:35PM (#33644002) Homepage
    The british post system sucks.
  • The nearest 'local' mall for me is 21 miles away (and we're talking strip mall, not big mall). The nearest place with some of the stores I routinely favor is 32, and there are products I have bought in the last 6 months that were not physically available within 220 miles in any brick and mortar store. I have bought over 20 items this year that were shipped from over 3,000 miles away, including a book that left its press in the hands of a Laotian native who bicycled with it to a town in Viet-Nam, where it we

    • by gmhowell (26755)

      Interesting story, but you need a correction: the chemicals in cat litter are not to give your cat better breath, it is to give your dog better breath.

  • In my town over 100 businesses have closed their doors and endless others have not even tried to start up due to competition from online sources. Just how much energy and pollution does that stop. Think of all that construction and all those employees and customers driving to those stores every day. And think of the sprawl issue and the road building that has to take place for brick and mortar stores.
    In other words simp

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "In my town over 100 businesses have closed their doors and endless others have not even tried to start up due to competition from online sources."

      Citation very, very much needed. :)

  • Forgotton factor (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dln385 (1451209)

    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 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Monday September 20, 2010 @09:12PM (#33644342)

    What if I'm buying CO2 credits online?

    • by blair1q (305137)

      The mass of the delivery truck divided by the mass of a single CO2 credit is on the order of infinity plus a metric assload.

      Which is highly inefficient in environmental terms.

      You're far better off growing a rainforest in the back of your Hummer, sequestering CO2 and delivering O2 to the environment while you drive.

  • I'd like to see the actual paper, which doesn't seem to be linked. Do they mean 25 purchases to one location, or 25 purchases per delivery run?

    Buses, by the way, have a similar problem. Buses have good energy efficiency when full and when going roughly from source to destination. They have terrible efficiency when they're running winding routes designed to cover as much area as possible, carrying few people. Which is the typical suburban bus situation.

  • by SteeldrivingJon (842919) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @01:20AM (#33645800) Homepage Journal

    This seems like an odd model.

    The "25 items" thing sounds like they're assuming a trip to the grocery store, where people tend to buy a lot of items at once.

    The things I buy online aren't like that. If I were buying them in the real world, chances are I'd be driving out to find a couple of specific items, then driving home, possibly visiting multiple stores in the process, trying to find what I want.

    I suspect if you compared online orders to the emissions load of a single person, driving alone, to multiple stores, to find one item, then online orders look a lot better.

Numeric stability is probably not all that important when you're guessing.

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