Miguel Jaller, VOX
…online shopping would be greener than driving to local stores if we did three simple things: 1) Planned ahead and consolidated our orders so we get everything we need in fewer shipments; 2) Avoided expedited shipping (even if it’s free); 3) Bought less stuff.
Given the date, it’s a near-certainty that a package marking one holiday or another has already landed on your doorstep, and that others are making their way there now. It’s also very likely that you didn’t stop to think much about the environmental implications of how the package got there. Most of us don’t, but there are very good reasons to start.
We’re shopping online more than ever throughout the year, but December represents an astonishing climax of consumer activity. The US Postal Service anticipates making 850 million deliveries between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day — shipping around 15 percent of the entire year’s packages in a little over a month. That’s 10 percent more holiday shipments than just last year, and the environmental impact is growing along with it.
In 2016, transportation overtook power plants as the top producer of carbon dioxide emissions in the US for the first time since 1979. Nearly a quarter of the transportation footprint comes from medium- and heavy-duty trucks. And increasingly the impact is coming in what people in the world of supply-chain logistics call “the last mile,” meaning the final stretch from a distribution center to a package’s destination. (The “last mile” can in truth be a dozen miles or more.)
Before the online revolution, the majority of last-mile deliveries were to stores, which tended to cluster in areas that can be more easily served by large trucks. Today, most packages are now going directly to residential addresses. We’ve traded trips to the mall, in relatively fuel-efficient cars, for deliveries to residential neighborhoods by trucks and other vehicles. The last mile today ends on our doorsteps.