A study by the Green Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh states that when comparing getting a flash drive from Buy.com versus a physical retailer, Buy.com ends up being about 30% less damaging to the environment. To reach their conclusion, the researchers compared transportation, packaging, warehousing, and energy usage both by the consumer and the retailer.
It’s important to note that Buy.com is a member of the Green Design Institute, and while they didn’t fund this particular research, they have contributed money to a general research fund—so take the report with a grain of salt. And since Buy.com doesn’t use warehouses, it’s hard to apply the results to an e-tailer like Amazon.com. Sandy Bauers on Phill.com writes,
So this isn’t an ironclad dictum. I view it more as information to factor in, measuring my circumstances against their statistical average: someone who drives 7.5 miles to a store in a car that gets 22.5 miles per gallon and picks up one or two items.
So if I’m in my Prius and I’m only going to detour a mile out of my way to stop at King of Prussia Mall on my way home, I’m good to go.
But not long ago I considered driving to a York County nursery to get a special dwarf fig tree for my edible landscaping plan. Scratch that. I’ll order online instead.
Meanwhile, there’s one more variable. The researchers concluded the best way to make either system more efficient was simply to buy more.
“GreenSpace: E-tail or retail kinder to Earth? They did the math” [Philly.com]