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Buying online is far better for environment

by Alan Harten
March 19, 2009

The latest report from Heriot-Watt University’s Logistics Research Centre says that shopping on the Internet is more environmentally beneficial than using a car to go shopping.

It found that home delivery emits, on average, much lower levels of CO2 than driving to the shops for the same article.

The researchers discovered that the usual home delivery van emits 181g, a bus journey 1,265g and 4,274g going by car.

So a shopper needs to buy 24 articles using a car or 7 by bus for the trip to be as environmentally friendly as a van-based home delivery.

The Director of the Logistics Research Centre, Professor Alan McKinnon, pointed out that the use of public transport in busy times and bulk buying can equate to the emissions from home delivery.

The key elements are the choice of transport, the amounts purchased on each trip, whether the buyer is at home when an item is delivered and also whether the goods will be returned.

The report looked at the carbon footprints of online and traditional shopping for items like cameras, home items, CDs and books.

It looked only at the last part of the retail process, when buyers go to the shops to collect goods or items are delivered.

McKinnon added web based stores and home delivery firms can improve carbon efficiency.

James Roper, CEO of Interactive Media in Retail Group, working for online sellers, said it was already clear that buying from online shopping outlets results in lower emissions.

The director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, Fiona Moriarty, thought the study was limited in scope.

High street shoppers usually buy more than one item she said, and the research does not recognise that people usually buy several items, nor does it recognise carbon emissions over the whole cycle of delivery.

Packaging, for example, may be stronger for home delivery.

She said that it is evident that online shopping is increasing, but it is still a minor part of total expenditure.

The two shopping styles often go together, with many people shopping in high-street stores as well as on the Internet.

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