Amazon’s new shipping commitments are harmful to the environment. Amazon has reportedly eliminated or reduced shipping minimums. In this new company policy, according to Recode, Amazon will ship low price items, say toothpaste or a makeup brush, with one-day shipping for Prime Members.
The increase in shipping should worry Amazon customers committed to the environment. Jeff Bezos announced in September a new climate commitment for the company. The commitment focused on carbon neutrality through zero-emissions vehicles. Amazon employees created a group- Amazon Employees for Climate Justice- to push Bezos on the issue.
But what about the shipping of products? In an email to Grist on Prime Day 2018, sustainability representative Melanie Janin at Amazon said, “Our research shows that delivering a typical order to an Amazon customer is more environmentally friendly than that customer driving to a store.”
That may be true for items that are boxed together and consolidated efficiently, but one-off shipments for individual small items do not get consolidated. Each item purchased requires a truck to move it, cardboard to hold it and recycling to remove it. Patrick Brown, director of global sustainability at UPS, echoes the efficiency of shipping products together, “The time in transit has a direct relationship to the environmental impact. I don’t think the average consumer understands the environmental impact of having something tomorrow vs. two days from now. The more time you give me, the more efficient I can be.”
Freight emissions from medium and heavy trucks-like delivery vans- are responsible for nearly a quarter of carbon emissions in the transportation category. The quantity and mileage of the delivery vans increases alongside demand for products.
Amazon shipped 5 billion items in 2017, according to Fast Company. Combined USPS, UPS and FedEx data shows 165 billion packages shipping in 2017, using 1 billion trees. That’s a lot of cardboard and trees.
For now, it’s up to consumers to nudge these companies in the right direction. As customers become aware of environmental costs of shipments, they are more likely to want to increase the shipping time. Choosing slower shipping does benefit the environment.
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