retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

CNN reports that a new study in the scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology says that it is more eco-conscious to go to the store than to order online.

The reason is that people shop differently online.

According to the story, "In the study, researchers estimated that shopping at brick-and-mortar stores for frequently bought items such as toilet paper, shampoo and toothpaste, often results in less greenhouse gas emissions than ordering the products from a company that only sells through the internet.

"The main reason is because of how people shop online: Many buy items online frequently -- but they only buy a few items per purchase … Frequent online purchases produce more packaging waste, and online items tend to come from different distribution centers. Both factors result in higher greenhouse gas emissions per item."

CNN goes on:  "In the United States, greenhouse gas emissions from shopping at physical stores were … estimated to be higher than from the brick & click channel, and lower than the pure play channel, on average."

The Eye-Opener, I think, is two-fold.

First, this is why (at least in part) Jeff Bezos decided to commit $1.2 billion to climate change initiatives.  If you're part of the problem, you'd better also be part of the solution.  (Plus, I've noticed a lot more envelopes and fewer boxes coming from Amazon lately;  I don't think this is just happenstance.  I think Amazon is consciously trying to cut back on packaging.)

Second, I'm not sure it matters, at least not for most people most of the time, in the short-term.  Amazon has managed to get a lot of us addicted to its service - in fact, Prime was developed as a way to get people to place a lot of small orders as opposed to building lists and  bringing together products to be shipped together.