Do Telecommuting and Online Shopping Actually Increase Pollution?

disinfostoreBritish researchers have reached a startling conclusion. Unless online shoppers order 25 items at a time, they’re polluting more than if they shopped at their local mall. And telecommuting was actually found to increase home energy use by 30 percent, which also increases emissions of environmentally dangerous gases.

According to the study, an environmental benefit only occurs “if online shopping replaces 3.5 traditional shopping trips, or if 25 orders are delivered at the same time, or, if the distance traveled to where the purchase is made is more than 50 kilometers. Shopping online does not offer net environmental benefits unless these criteria are met.”

The study was conducted by Newcastle University’s Institution of Engineering and Technology, which blames the environmental impact of transportation, warning that “policy makers must do their homework to ensure that rebound effects do not negate the positive benefits of their policy initiatives…” But one technology site notes the study was conducted in Britain, which could have an impact on its conclusions. While some countries “have excellent mass transit systems that are easy to use and cover extensive areas making it a better choice for travel than automobiles… In yet other spread out rural areas cars are the only way to travel.”

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  • anonymous

    Items on stores have to be delivered just like mail does, so is the comparison between store purchases and home delivery only in the footprint of the mail delivery truck between the postal outlets and the houses?
    I do think home delivery for all products is exorbitant, but I question whether it’s that significant.
    The cost surely can’t be on web browsing alone. I have heard reports that using the internet uses a lot of energy but I don’t think you’ll see anyone implementing bandwidth rations other than the greed of ISPs to charge based on it despite the infrastructure supporting so much more than is used.

    As usual, my pessimistic side first interpreted this article as “shopping more is more environmentally friendly”. Maybe that’s just the spin they put on it.

    Local stores and internet stores still have a ways to go. I can’t browse what my local store has in stock and have it reserved for me. I can’t make requests for products or pre-orders (with few exceptions like video games). Middlemen also take a large cut despite the increasing population density and efficiency which the outlets receive.

  • anonymous

    Items on stores have to be delivered just like mail does, so is the comparison between store purchases and home delivery only in the footprint of the mail delivery truck between the postal outlets and the houses?
    I do think home delivery for all products is exorbitant, but I question whether it’s that significant.
    The cost surely can’t be on web browsing alone. I have heard reports that using the internet uses a lot of energy but I don’t think you’ll see anyone implementing bandwidth rations other than the greed of ISPs to charge based on it despite the infrastructure supporting so much more than is used.

    As usual, my pessimistic side first interpreted this article as “shopping more is more environmentally friendly”. Maybe that’s just the spin they put on it.

    Local stores and internet stores still have a ways to go. I can’t browse what my local store has in stock and have it reserved for me. I can’t make requests for products or pre-orders (with few exceptions like video games). Middlemen also take a large cut despite the increasing population density and efficiency which the outlets receive.

  • Vox Penii

    I don’t care.

    I refuse to be perpetually guilt-tripped by environmentalists into questioning my every action.

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