Electronic Shopping Saves Energy and Pollution, says Study

Consumers will save a significant amount of energy if they do their holiday shopping on-line, according to an analysis from the non-profit Center for Energy & Climate Solutions.

WASHINGTON, DC – “Even overnight shipping – the most energy-intensive delivery mode – purchasing a present online uses 40 percent less fuel than driving to the mall to get it yourself,” explains the Center’s Joe Romm. “It also eliminates shipping from a warehouse to the store, plus a trip to the post office to mail it.” The average book on a retail shelf uses 16 times more energy for heating, cooling and lighting than one waiting in a warehouse, which makes e-commerce merchants even more energy-friendly, he adds. Maximize benefits are possible if consumers order before the last minute, since slower delivery means bigger energy savings. Internet technology is already helping America become more energy efficient, explains the analysis. Since e-commerce started in 1996, yearly reductions in U.S. energy intensity (energy consumed relative to goods and services produced) were four times greater than the preceding decade. Energy demand is still growing, but more slowly than before and not as fast as the U.S. economy. The conventional method of holiday shopping is to drive to a mall for two presents that weigh five pounds, and then ship them to a friend across the country, explains Romm. Energy is consumed by the retail trucks that carry the gifts from warehouse to the mall, by the person driving to the mall to purchase the gifts, and by the transportation carrier that ships them across the country. Assuming a 1,000 mile trip from warehouse to store, the gasoline consumed is one tenth of a gallon. The 20 mile trip to the mall by car uses one gallon. Sending the gifts 2,000 miles by airfreight consumes another gallon, for a total fuel consumption of more than two gallons, generating 40 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. In e-commerce, the purchases are made from home and shipped overnight to the recipient, eliminating all transportation except the 1,000 miles of airfreight from a central warehouse. The total fuel consumption in this scenario is half a gallon, with the emission of only ten pounds of greenhouse gases, explains Romm. Using a slow delivery option allows the gifts to be delivered by truck or rail, using one tenth of a gallon or less and generating only two pounds of greenhouse gases, he adds. This is 95 percent less than getting it the old fashioned way.

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