While many of us try to avoid driving to save the environment, it may not be working as well as we thought. A new study has shown that ordering online may actually be worse for the environment.
The study looked at the three main ways people shop; physical shopping, buying online and a physical store that delivers it to you, and buying online from a pure online retailer. It found that buying online from a pure online retailer was the worst way to shop for the environment with physical shopping in second place and online purchasing from a physical shop, the best way.
The reason was twofold. The main reason is in the different ways we shop. When we shop in a physical store we tend to make one trip and buy a lot of items. Whether this is visiting a large grocery store and buying all of our groceries or visiting a shopping mall and visiting various stores, people are naturally incentivized to drive less per item they purchase. However, our online purchasing habits are quite singular. We tend to buy small items and with many pure online sellers now offering free delivery, we don’t feel the pressure to buy many items. Physical stores with an online presence do well as they often only deliver when a threshold has been spent and many people are migrating their behavior from the physical store to the online equivalent. If you always buy your groceries on a Friday, just because you purchase online it doesn’t mean that you will now start splitting up your purchases.
When you buy from a physical store you have to drive to the store, get your product and drive home. Of course there are all the environmental costs of getting the items into that store as well. When you order online but from a physical store the driver still has to drive to your home with the goods and drive back to the store. However, they can now plan the route to ensure the driver is being efficient with his deliveries.
When you buy from a pure online retailer. You tend to buy a low number of items. Even if you buy a large number of items they are often arriving from a number of warehouses and being shipped separately. This means the environmental cost per item can be incredibly high.
The problem is one of logistics from the online retailer and one of habit from the consumer. Online retailers must do more to streamline their operations from an environmental perspective and consumers must be more conscious of the impacts our purchasing is having on the environment.