- Environmental Health -

The True Costs of Online Shopping

Why shopping at a brick-and-mortar store might be a greener option than ordering online.

delivery trucks on freeway

Online shopping is big business: Americans spent $395 billion at Web retailers in 2016, up from $28 billion in 2000. Part of the increase may be due to a belief that e-commerce is a greener option than shopping at your local brick-and-mortar store. But according to various online-retailing industry studies, there are several environmental factors to consider.

TRAFFIC CONGESTION

Delivery trucks make up to 7 percent of traffic in American cities. And delivery traffic is projected to grow 45 percent by 2045 thanks in part to online shopping, according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

RUSH DELIVERY

Choosing expedited shipping more than doubles a package’s carbon footprint.

SPLIT SHIPMENTS

When a retailer splits a single order into multiple shipments, it increases carbon emissions by 35 percent.

FAILED DELIVERIES

About 10 percent of initial deliveries fail in urban areas, requiring two — or more — delivery attempts.

RETURNS

E-commerce purchases are returned 30 percent of the time, compared with less than 9 percent of in-store purchases. This significantly increase the delivery’s environmental impact.

is an Experience Life associate editor.

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