Remember the days when ecommerce was just starting out and online shopping was viewed as the green option? Rather than idling on gridlocked roads belching exhaust fumes en route to the mall, consumers could complete a few mouse clicks from the comfort of their desk chairs and merchandise would magically appear at their doorstep.
Those promises of convenience have largely played out; the environmental benefits are a murkier picture, however. Look no further than curbside on recycling day for evidence of this new shopping model. Increasingly, instead of 30 widgets packed in one box going to retailers, 30 separate boxes are going directly to consumers – even when consumers place orders for multiple items. Does the carbon footprint of added cardboard and bubble wrap outweigh the reduced auto emissions? The answer isn’t as tidy as initially thought.