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Monday, December 19, 2005

On-line is greener?

On-line shoppers, generally criticized because they eschew the personal shopping experience for the sake of convenience, have a new found bragging right this holiday season, it seems on-line shopping is good for the environment.

Sighting a year 2000 study by the Center for Energy & Climate Solutions a private think tank headed by former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Energy, Dr. Joseph Romm, on-line retailers are claiming that ordering gifts over the internet saves energy as well as time and the frustration of over crowded stores. The study compared book purchases and concluded that the amount of energy used, “per book sold in traditional bookstores versus on-line retailer Amazon.com to be 16-to-1. Internet shopping," the study goes on to say," uses less energy to get a package to your house: Shipping 10 pounds of packages by overnight air – the most energy-intensive delivery mode – still uses 40 percent less fuel than driving roundtrip to the mall. Ground shipping by truck uses just one-tenth the energy of driving yourself."

Obviously, on-line retailing will continue to grow steadily in the coming years as more goods and services find virtual shelving space which in turn means traditional retailers face the challenge retailers have always faced, innovate or lose market share. As the internet spreads its influence so too does it make itself ever more user friendly and there may be a time in the not too distant future when small, local retailers will use the on-line path as readily as their brick and mortar store front. Those that do will be able to offer the best of both worlds, small specialty store charm with personal sevice to virtual shoppers as well as folks like me that would rather pick and browse our way through a tangible tangle of goods with all its smells, tastes and textures and yes, occasionally, crowded stores and rude clerks. Some of us no doubt will only shop Amazon when they build a store on Main Street - just keep it green please.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine Managing editor

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