Study Finds E-Shopping Greener Than Traditional Retailing

Study Finds E-Shopping Greener Than Traditional Retailing

You may have already suspected this, but a recent study by Carnegie Mellon University's Green Design Institute avers that shopping online has less of an environmental impact than going to a traditional bricks-and-mortar store.

A team of six researchers came to that conclusion after conducting a life cycle comparison of e-commerce and traditional retail transactions involving an electronic product.

The transaction studied was the purchase of a flash drive and its journey from the manufacturer ultimately to the customer's home. The e-commerce business that was focused upon in the study was Buy.com, a member of the Green Design Consortium at Carnegie Mellon's Green Design Institute.

Researchers found that Buy.com's business model for such a transaction involved 35 percent less energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions than a traditional retail shopping model.

The study also identified the factors in each transaction model that sucked up the most energy and caused the greatest release of CO2. For the traditional retail model that was customer transport to and from stores, which accounted for 65 percent of the overall emissions resulting from the transaction. For the e-commerce model, packaging and last-mile delivery consumed the most energy and emitted the greatest amount of CO2.

A key advantage for the Buy.com model is that goods are shipping directly from distribution partners to customers. In contrast, the traditional model typically involves the shipment of products from distributors to regional warehouses and from the warehouses to retail sites, where items are purchased and then taken home by customers.

A copy of the study can be downloaded by clicking here (pdf).