Is online shopping better for the environment, or could it be worse? Considering the likelihood of online shopping to be widely adopted, the environmentally-friendliness of such retail alternative, in terms of transportation, packaging and warehousing, will be analyzed and discussed in this research paper. Introduction Online shopping has increasingly entrenched in consumer culture. About 4. 2% of purchases were done with a computer or hand-held device in 2011, compared with 3. 3% in 2008 (U. S. Senses Bureau, 2011).
While concerns about the environmental impact of online retail have been raised, there IS no general consensus on the environmental impact of online retail versus rotational retail model (Crawford, 2012). The general public tends to think that the difference between the two models IS quite insignificant since the energy used to operate the computer would offset the energy saved from not having to pick their goods up. Yet, Jerry Starch, the CEO of Toys, however, said online shopping is very unseen. Is online shopping beneficial or harmful to the environ meet?
Materials and Methods Books are the most popular items purchased online (Rigorous, 2009). The retail and e-tail product pathways of purchasing the same book, along with exults from previous research are to be compared to show carbon footprint of the two retail options, and thus the environmental impacts associated with online and conventional shopping. The carbon footprint is a measure of the exclusive total amount of carbon dioxide emissions that is directly and indirectly caused by an activity or is accumulated over the life stages of a product (Weidman and Minx, 2007).
It is usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide. Energy intensity and carbon emission are the two major factors contributing to carbon footprint. In this case, since both online ND retail stores sell the same product, we assume the carbon emissions will make no difference until the product leaves the manufacturing stage. Rest Its To calculate and compare the carbon footprint of the two retail options, we have to first understand the stages gone through in the two retail pathways of buying the same book. Fig. General descriptions and quantifications of key retail and e-tail pathway stages The above table shows important stages in the retail and e-tail pathways. The initial stages Of either retail or e-tail pathway are similar. As seen in Figure 1, eye differences mainly lie in transportation energy use, last-mile energy, packaging materials and warehousing. Fig. 2 CO emissions associated with retail and e-tail pathway stages Transportation is the largest contributor to carbon emissions in both retail and e-tail product pathways, customer transport in conventional shopping and last mile delivery in online shopping.
More energy is used in transportation than in packaging, warehousing and other pathway stages. With reference to Figure 2, energy emission of customer transport is approximately 20 MS/item higher than that of last mile delivery. Customer transportation accounts for 65% of emissions when buying the equivalent item at a retail store (Carnegie Melon’s Freer Design Institute, 2011). Buying a book online requires lower energy expenditure on transportation and results in lower total carbon emissions than purchasing one from a retail store.
Online shopping is a greener retail option than in-store shopping in terms of transportation. Packaging is another major factor contributing to the carbon footprint of either online or traditional shopping. The e-tail option often requires more packaging. Packaging accounts for 22% of the carbon dioxide emissions of an item purchased online (Carnegie Melon’s Freer Design Institute, 201 1). Conventional shopping has the environmental edge over online shopping in terms of packaging. Warehousing accosts for more or less the same portion of carbon emission in both retail and e-tail options as suggested by the chart in Figure 2.
All in all, the total energy emission of retailing is larger than that of e- commerce as seen in Figure 2. Carbon footprint in the retail pathway is therefore higher than that in the e-tail pathway. Discussion Online shopping is almost always less energy-intensive than going to a store in person. It is a less energy-consumptive option approximately 80% of the time. E-commerce uses about 30% less energy than traditional retail (Carnegie Mellon University, 2011). Fig. 3 The traditional retail pathway Fig. 4 The e-tail pathway The most prominent environmental benefit of online shopping is that it requires less transportation.
In traditional shopping, inventory often travels more miles before reaching the final destination. Once a product is manufactured, it is first sent to central warehouse, then to regional arouses, and finally to the store; whereas in online shopping, the product normally travels directly from distributor storehouse to customers (see Figure 3 and 4). The ‘last mile’ is an especially important parameter for comparing transportation involved in online and conventional shopping. “Last mile” is the final stage in the supply chain (Edwards, Mimicking and Culinary, 2010).
It accounts for the most significant portion of the product’s carbon footprint in online shopping (Garnet, 2010). For the last segment of delivery, goods are delivered directly from a much smaller number of distribution centers in a such larger quantity in online retail but not to hundreds of retail stores in traditional retail. E-tail can save more energy as a result. It is claimed that traditional shopping is greener in terms Of packaging. Yet, both in-store and online shopping have to do shrink-wrapping, padding and boxing for their products(Rigorous, 2009).
Conventional shopping can therefore hardly maximize materials efficiency nor minimize waste. With the growth of recycling channels for different packaging materials, the environmental impact from packaging on online shopping has become mailer (Hendrickson, 2011). Some online sellers even provide bulk or environmentally-friendly packaging (Rigorous, 2009). The energy emission for both e-tail and retail options are more or less the same because both of them require the operation of climate-controlled warehouses. Yet, retailers usually own or lease additional storage and distribution facilities (Rigorous, 2009).
Some may argue that online shopping requires energy to operate computers or handheld devices but that amount is much less than that necessary to build, light, heat and cool physical bookstores. Online shopping can therefore minimize the energy usage for buildings. It is also easier to find green products online simply due to the massive selection of online stores. Though environmentally responsible products are available in retail stores, it could be quite difficult to find them in person. Online shopping encourages the purchase and consumption environmentally friendly products owing to its accessibility.
Conclusion Both customers and suppliers should be aware of the relationship between their purchasing behavior and distribution methods and environmental implications so as to reduce carbon emissions. The calculation of carbon footprint involves many variables and it is quite hard to give a definite answer. The number of items purchased each time, choice of transportation and the possibility of combining shopping with other activities may alter the carbon emission of conventional shopping. Yet, online shopping is generally a greener retail option.
Its carbon footprint is more stable and lower relative to conventional shopping. E-tail is more environmentally friendly in terms of transportation and warehousing. It is also improving on its sustainability in Although online shopping is a greener retail option than traditional shopping, online retailers and delivery companies should apply measures to gain a clearer environmental edge. They can maximize delivery density and increase the use of light-duty instead of high-duty truck to further reduce carbon emissions of their logistic operations.
For example, courier companies like Faded and UPS have well-designed delivery route which aims at serving the most customers in a minimum number of trips to achieve higher fuel economy and efficiency (Rigorous, 2009). Online shopping is a sustainable retail option.