Geog1003 Final Project Essay

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Contemporary Global Environmental Issues
Final Project

Is Online Shopping a Green Retail Option?

Ho Yan Nok (3035108796)

With technological advancements in recent decades, online shopping has become a more favorable business option than traditional shopping. Online shopping has successfully won customers over for its convenience as it allows consumers to browse, choose and order products from the comfort of their homes. Yet, environmental impact is seldom a topic of concern to most shoppers. Is online shopping better for the environment, or could it be worse? Considering the likelihood of online shopping to be widely adopted, the environmentally-friendliness of such retail alternative, in
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The e-tail option often requires more packaging. Packaging accounts for 22% of the carbon dioxide emissions of an item purchased online (Carnegie Mellon’s Freen Design Institute, 2011). Conventional shopping has the environmental edge over online shopping in terms of packaging.

Warehousing accouts for more or less the same portion of carbon emission in both retail and e-tail options as suggested by the chart in Figure 2.

All in all, the total energy emission of retailing is larger than that of e-commerce as seen in Figure 2. Carbon footprint in the retail pathway is therefore higher than that in the e-tail pathway.

Online shopping is almost always less energy-intensive than going to a store in person. It is a less energy-consumptive option approximately 80% of the time. E-commerce uses about 30% less energy than traditional retail (Carnegie Mellon University, 2011).

Fig. 3 The traditional retail pathway

Fig. 4 The e-tail pathway

The most prominent environmental benefit of online shopping is that it requires less transportation. In traditional shopping, inventory often travels more miles before reaching the final destination. Once a product is manufactured, it is first sent to central warehouse, then to regional warehouse, and finally to the store; whereas in online shopping, the product normally travels directly from distributor storehouse to customers (see Figure 3 and 4). The ‘last mile’ is an especially
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