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Our Take: Free 2-day Shipping & Climate Change

What does free 2-day shipping have to do with climate change? Quite a lot, actually. It’s inefficient, resulting in more partial-load delivery trucks on the road spewing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing traffic congestion. In Laura Paddison’s report on Huffington Post, she points to a multi-year study by the University of Delaware, that looked at how online shopping in Newark, Delaware, was having a negative impact on the transportation system, especially for emissions. Delivery trucks catering to quick two-day deliveries are unsustainable, inefficient and because there are many more trucks on the road, it increases the amount of greenhouse gases.

Check out this interesting video produced by VOX and the University of California clearly showing the impact of online shopping and some solutions. But the convenience may be overshadowing the long term environmental consequences. To get a package you ordered to you on time, a company may have to ship a purchase from a distant location, sometimes by air, which also increases emissions. And quick, free shipping, while it may save you a trip to the store in your car, costing time, emissions, and road wear, it also contributes to induced demand and over-consumption, which are at the root of the human threat to and toll on the sustainability of life on Earth.

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3 Responses

  1. Until recently, I had never thought about the environmental impacts of expedited shipping. However, as you point out, 2-day shipping is actually quite environmentally unfriendly. The video suggested that companies add a “green option” to shipping options, so that people could choose environmentally friendly shipping while subtly being made aware that expedited shipping is harming the planet. What are some ways to encourage people to actually select that option? Would it be feasible for “green shipping” to become the standard? Currently, 2-day shipping seems to be the norm, since it is free for huge retailers like Amazon. If companies were to charge for 2-day shipping, would they lose money? Would customers be too angry?

    1. thanks for your comment Emma. It’s reasonable to hope that “green shipping” will become the norm in the near future.

  2. Great post, this is surprising but expected and makes sense; As being an Amazon member myself I never thought of it causing such a huge impact by not waiting. Just by not waiting a few days we cause companies to rush deliveries and which causes an increase in carbon dioxide. But I also know that Amazon does offer prime members discounts and other things if they wait for all of their delivery to come together. Maybe in the near future people will more thoughtful as awareness spreads about these types of things.

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