Making e-commerce more environmentally friendly

By Christina Chu | Public Relations Account Supervisor

With the rise of COVID-19 came a new rise in e-commerce. Already a key player in the retail game, e-commerce has become a part of all of our lives and is only expected to accelerate in popularity. In fact, studies have shown that e-commerce is expected to account for nearly a quarter of all retail sales worldwide by 2023.

But taking a step back, some may wonder what sort of impact e-commerce has on the environment. Well, that’s the good news. One recent study cited that online shopping may have a lower carbon footprint than traditional in-store shopping because it’s more efficient. But how do we lower the carbon footprint of ecommerce even further? The solution may be found in transportation.

To study the impact of different e-commerce delivery scenarios on the environment, the U.S. Department of Energy commissioned a study. Here’s what they did.

The study focused on the last mile, or the final leg, of the trip that a package took before reaching someone’s home. In most cases, this “last mile” is the trip from a warehouse to someone’s home or from the post office to a front porch. Generally speaking, in the study scientists mapped out the delivery route of a package and then applied scenarios to that route using different modes of transportation to identify the amount of energy used to deliver a package. Of course, being a creative organization, we turned their findings into a visual.

You can see in the graph that the DoE mapped out different types of delivery vehicles – from electric vans and trucks to drones – and compared the energy usage of the form of transportation to a typical diesel box truck. They also examined different destinations to see what affect those had on usage, as well.

Not surprisingly, you can see electric trucks save a significant amount of energy when used for last mile deliveries. In fact, they reduce energy consumption by 77%. Compare that to a drone, which surprisingly only decreases energy usage by 13%.

And when final destinations are applied to the equation, it turns out that having a package delivered to a storage locker reduces energy usage in suburban areas, especially those with large neighborhoods with cul-de-sacs. Specifically, delivery to a storage locker saves around 48% in energy compared to delivering to someone’s home. And better yet, if you have your package delivered by an electric truck to a storage locker, you save a whopping 88% in energy as compared to having it delivered to your home via a diesel box truck.

With the push for more electric vehicles shaping our future, a scenario like this isn’t too far off from becoming a reality. And for now, you can rest easy that by ordering your next pair of shoes online rather than going to the store you’re being environmentally responsible. Well done you. And for those of you who love graphs and charts, below we have another way to show the information.