eCommerce, as a “Green” Initiative?

I recently finished a book entitled “Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller”, written by Jeff Rubin a former chief eecommerceGreenconomist for CIBC World Markets.  The premise is that the diminishing availability of oil will radically change how and where we buy things.  Although the recession has caused a temporary dip in oil prices, as the economy recovers, oil prices will skyrocket once again.  Globalization as we know it will reverse.  The global world in which we live will shrink and we’ll buy more locally due to the exorbitant cost of transporting the goods.

I began pondering what implications the digital channel has on energy scarcity and wondered if we need to emphasize the ‘Green” nature of eCommerce more significantly.  According to the Chicago Tribune, many retail pundits see the big-box retailer boom ending and as gas prices continue their rise fewer consumers are inclined to drive far from home to fill their cupboards.  According to Rubin, “cutting back even a fraction of our energy consumption would have a huge global impact if everyone did it”.

The beauty of online shopping is that almost anyone with access to the Internet can do it.  And the implications on the environment are significant.  Outside of your commute to work, the number one reason you jump in your car is to shop.

Imagine the energy saved by purchasing online.  Fewer miles of driving which saves you gas, not to mention the wear-and-tear on your car.  Reduced inventory transportation costs, since it doesn’t have to travel that last leg of the distribution network.  We’ll see a dramatic reduction in energy needed to light and heat stores.  Let’s not forget about the energy saved since fewer retail workers will be driving to and from.  Several recent studies estimate that each time a customer decides to buy online almost 3 kg of CO2 emissions are saved.

One of the most dramatic successes in energy saving is through the digital distribution of electronic media such as music, books and movies.  When was the last time you drove to a store to buy a record?  A study by just one company who manufactures 400 million music CDs a year estimates that digital distribution saves almost 1 kg in emissions per CD; almost 400 million tons of CO2 a year.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

So Buy Online and go Green.

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