Contrary to how it may feel, getting deliveries from companies like Amazon actually has a smaller carbon footprint than traditional retail. This is due to the nature of having a batch of items delivered by a single vehicle driving a route instead of each individual package recipient driving their own vehicle to a brick and mortar store and back.
This form of eco friendly shipping is essentially like a bus route for packages verses a lot of single car package commuters.
There are concerns about the excessive packaging required for each shipment, though Amazon is trying to combat those concerns with their simple, frustration free packaging, but even these concerns are offset by the benefits of the grouping into one line or route.
When packages have to arrive faster, it limits the opportunity to group them together into dense routes.
The most extreme example of this is food delivery, like pizza. A pizza has an incredibly tight window in which it has to arrive and so generally only one, or at best two, pizza orders can be delivered at once.
A pizza driver, driving to your house, to deliver a single order and then driving back to the store is just as bad for the environment as you driving there to pick it up.
This is the same for non-food deliveries items that also have a similarly tight window, like packages that need to be there the next day, or even in a couple of hours, the drivers have a lot less flexibility when planning their routes; though, AI and other algorithmic planning are quickly changing up the routing game.
As companies continue attempting to outdo each other with faster and faster delivery times, this begins to erode the environmental benefits of delivery, since each package will be a lot more limited on when it needs arrive.
As always, Amazon is leading in the push to shorten delivery times and has promised One-Day-Shipping to Prime customers within a year. Though this is a serious perk for the customer, it comes at a cost to the environmental system of batch deliveries.
With traditional retail, the manufacturer ships the produce to a wholesaler, who then will ship it to a retailer, who will then ship it to one of their stores to be sold.
Amazon on the other hand, ship products to consumers that they have received directly from the manufacturers, which cuts down on some of the intermediate shipping.
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It’s easy to see how buying an item from a store feels more eco-friendly, since the process in which the item has arrived at the store is so opaque, but there is always going to be a fair amount of shipping involved in getting merchandise to any given store, which will always result in an environmental footprint.
The only real way to combat this problem is to buy products that are locally made, and also sourced out of locally produced material. But, besides going to a farmers market, this is a tall order in our globalized world.
Almost all our clothes are produced in Asia and shipped across the Pacific, and virtually every manufactured good is produced in China. While of course there are some exceptions, buying locally can certainly be tricky.
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As we begin to feel more of the impacts of climate change, finding ways to be more eco-friendly has become more important than ever before, which is why some delivery companies are making efforts to take advantage of the inherent environmental benefits of package delivery.
While Amazon is pushing their One-Day-Shipping option, they have also unveiled a new option called Amazon Day in which you can choose to have all your packages that you’ve ordered that week delivered on one day, in as few boxes as possible. This is a great option, and perfect way to reduce your carbon footprint even more.
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Though it’s less exciting and certainly less convenient than having packages appear on your doorstep every other day, it’s a better choice for the environment.
Combating climate change is going to take everyone coming together and making sacrifices, but it doesn’t always have to be a big sacrifice.
Only getting Amazon packages once a week is a relatively small price to pay when you think about everything that’s at stake. It’s a small thing sure, but it’s one of the arrows in our quiver in our fight against climate change, one that we need to be utilizing more.
Even with the potential drawbacks it is still almost always more eco-friendly to get packages delivered, even if it doesn’t seem that way, especially if you use one of the less immediate delivery options.
While what’s available is a good start, hopefully Amazon and other delivery companies start to prioritize minimizing their environmental impact so that their customers can feel even better about using their services.