Is E-Commerce Good For The Planet?

Here's a different argument to make to the CEO next week: Increasing your E-Commerce investment will help save the world. (Or, to paraphrase a line from the original Ghostbusters film: If you approve this E-Commerce plan, you will have just saved the lives of 6.7 billion potential registered site visitors.)

OK, maybe it's a reach, but not so much as one might think. A study published by Carnegie Mellon University Tuesday (March 3) found that "shopping online reduces environmental impact with 35 percent less energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions compared to the traditional retail shopping model."

The report tracked a package of flash drives from Buy.com and compared it to a brick-and-mortar purchase, with an eye on energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. The biggest single factor that gave E-Commerce a huge boost was the assumption about the customer's driving distance, followed by the consumer's fuel economy, the cost of the e-tailer's packaging versus the store's electricity and the energy and emissions involved in the retail freight efforts and the energy needs of the data center and the warehouse.