Online shopping can save you a trip or trips to the store, so is it reasonable to assume that online shopping is an overall energy-saver? Very often, yes. IF your shopping trip would involve more than 8.6 miles, you would emit less carbon if you stayed home (instead of driving a car) and exercised your clicking finger.
I was surprised when I did the research because it seemed to me that the energy costs for individual delivery would be a lot more than the energy costs of stocking a store (which is done in bulk). But it’s apparently not true. The energy costs of delivery are organized enough in the aggregate that individual deliveries do not cost more energy than most shopping trips, and the more people shop online, the more true that will be.
This is kind of embarrassing for me because I had some sarcastic remarks prepared about the extravagance and waste of Amazon’s “fulfillment centers”, but then a little research knocked my assumption off its low-hanging roost. Damn. I hate it when that happens.
But I’m not giving up entirely. I still want to be skeptical about people’s online shopping habits. Are you buying more stuff than you normally would just because it’s so easy? Click here for next-day gratification!
The most energy-efficient way to shop is to walk from store to store at a mall or a town center. Or use the telephone to find out if a store carries what you need before you go there. In my experience a lot of people refuse to use this handy option. Some People (and I’m not naming any names) decide they need something, so they must embark immediately on a quest to find the object of their need. This quest often requires driving all over town. If you’re recognizing yourself here, I definitely recommend that you shop online.
But let’s apply a little old-fashioned, slippery-slope logic here. If we’re going to prefer online shopping to brick and mortar stores, then why not eliminate libraries, banks and post offices, even restaurants. We’ll all just stay home in our little fortresses and order everything we need on our computer. Just like E.M. Forster predicted.