The environmental cost of free two-day shipping
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The environmental cost of free two-day shipping


When it comes to buying stuff, I’ve often
wondered how did I live without online shopping? I mean literally today anything I want is
available to me 24/7. I can buy anything anytime. In fact 79% of Americans shop online. This happens when they’re laying in bed,
while they’re out with friends having a drink. It turns out actually one in five us shop
online while we’re using the bathroom. All this stuff we’re buying magically appears
on our doorstep. But what effect does all this shopping have
on the planet? Delivery services ship a lot more packages
now because of online shopping. Since 2009 US Postal Service deliveries increased
by 65%. And during the holidays, UPS deliveries have
increased by 260 million packages since 2010. Now for the most part, if you compare online
shopping with driving to the store, online shopping has a smaller carbon footprint. But there’s a catch. It’s only better for the environment if you
don’t get rushed delivery. Most of us, including me, are choosing faster
delivery like two day shipping because most of the time it’s free. Why wouldn’t we want it right away? But it isn’t just a time difference, it’s
an environmental difference. All these faster deliveries mean more trucks
on the road and that’s causing more greenhouse gases. And that means more global warming. When we choose two-day shipping, deliveries
often come in multiple packages. Let’s say I buy some dish soap and a pair
of socks. The shipping warehouse near me might be out
of dish soap, so they fly some in from another state. Meanwhile, those socks, they’re getting
sent to me on a separate truck. Also, the company is trying to get it to me
quickly, so trucks are often sent out only half full — If there was more flexibility
in timing, they could fill them up all the way. If you know you have five-day delivery window,
you can wait from all the products to come in from different sources, consolidate the
shipment, and send it. And now you can wait for many customers’
orders to come in and consolidate that into, let’s say, a full truckload. This is Miguel Jaller. He studies sustainable transportation at the
University of California, Davis. By picking the longer delivery window, I’m
giving the company more time to find the most efficient way to get a product to me. Another problem is with returns. So one of the things that companies made is
offering this reliable and fast and almost free return option. So now as a customer, I can actually try the
product, even if I don’t have any store to go to, because if I don’t like it or
it doesn’t fit, I can actually return it at no cost. So like with buying clothes, if I shop online
and pick the ‘try before you buy’ option, it would be like saying a delivery truck is
driving back and forth just to find me the right stuff. So what are companies trying to do? When you think of the future of online shipping,
you might imagine drones and driverless cars. But today’s solutions are more about keeping
traffic moving along, like with wifi traffic lights that let truckers know ahead of time
when the light will turn red. This cuts down on idling at the light and
wasting fuel. We’re now starting to transmit the timing
of those traffic lights, in anticipation for that, they might want to speed up a little
bit or slow down or do these certain little velocity changes so that they increase their
chances of getting through that light. This is Matt Barth at the University of California,
Riverside. He’s looking at ways trucks can reduce their
transit footprint. You can essentially smooth out your patterns
of travel. And when you smooth out your travel patterns,
you get those fuel-economy benefits. Cities like San Jose and Las Vegas are already
testing out this traffic light technology. You can save 15 to 20 percent fuel just by
doing those type of activities. And on the highway, trucks are now starting
to talk to each other — it’s called truck platooning. You can think of it like cruise control except
its transmitting the truck’s speed to the other vehicles following behind. This lets all the trucks drive in unison at
the same speed close behind each other. What they’re doing is trying to reduce the
drag. The narrow gaps they create between each other
shields the trucks that are following from wind resistance. And so there’s been a number of experiments
worldwide that have shown, you know, you can get 10 to 15, 20 percent energy savings, fuel
savings by doing that type of platooning. Now delivery companies have been tackling
fuel use and emissions for decades. Take UPS. Since the 1970s they’ve encouraged drivers
to eliminate left hand turns, reducing their emissions by 100,000 metric tons. That’s like taking 21,000 cars off the road. So there are ways companies can shrink their
carbon footprint, but what if they were better about changing customer behavior – like
getting us to be conscious about how we shop online? I’ve always picked that 2 day option because
to be honest never really thought about it, but what if companies offered a green option? So if you just check a box they would just
ship stuff to you in the most energy efficient way possible. Sure, maybe it takes a little bit longer,
but that’s something I’d actually be willing to do. I mean every now and again, I might need something
right away. But I probably don’t need to overnight a
delivery of socks to my front door. You probably do a lot of your online shopping
with your smartphone. Well watch our other episode to see what kind
of impact these devices have on our planet.

100 Comments

  • Mary Mantzourani

    I always love your videos and how informative they are! Keep making them! I love how you are being very positive and are not being patronising!!

  • Ashkan Ahmadi

    huh? WiFi traffic light? How about just a normal timer next to the light so that the drivers know how much time they have left to stop or go through.

  • Thomas Rainbow

    This was a fantastic article on Vox and video here. It was exactly what I was looking for. I pay for Amazon 2-day shipping but just recently it occurred to me, do I really need those socks tomorrow? I can't justify paying for a service that's not eco friendly just to appease my impatience.

  • enrique velasquez

    Ok vox this is where I draw the line! Don’t be bad mouthing my 2 day shipping, next day shipping or same day shipping! I don’t care what it takes just give me my package ASAP!

  • luke2vlogs

    Well I definitely will never be using a faster shipping method ever again and I think the green option is a really good idea.

  • brinlov

    You flippers can get fast shipping for FREE?? If I order something from the US, I have to pay fricking 40 dollars to import! And you buy SOCKS of the internet? That is one luxury I'm almost glad I don't have.
    Anyway, I love this guy's videos! I'm always kind of anxious to click because I don't want to feel even more bad for doing things that are bad for the environement, but he gets the message across SO gracefully and kindly! And luckily, I'm getting better at wasting less and less with resue products and such. Keep it up, Vox!

  • Kelsey CoCa

    I wish you could opt out of the bubble wrap and packing stuff, too! For Amazon you can select shipping prime items together or as they become available which I always select together because I hate all of the extra boxes/bubble wrap laying around. There have been many times where I got a whole box full of packing materials that weren't needed or where an envelope would have been fine.

  • Desmon Rush

    I've never seen two different options for free shipping but if that is an issue, the companies shouldn't have 2 different free options if it's more beneficial to have a 5 day waiting window instead of 2. Companies always look for ways to save money

  • Martin Soler

    I guess having lived in Denmark most of my life I have been so thoroughly educated on not wasting energy that I would never use same day / next day delivery unless I really needed it.

  • Infi

    An alternative solution to delaying shipping times would be to instead get more people shopping online. It's just like how planes can leave on a busy route every few hours without having to fly half empty, but on some less common routes they only run every day and still don't fill up.

  • Y B

    Amazon Prime is what makes Amazon money. Give up two-day shipping, and there is no point in having Prime membership, in which case there is no profit for Amazon.

  • Buchanan Games

    as a university student, i have Amazon Prime for free .. and i just went to order something and could easily have had it here by then end of the day for free (it’s currently 1am)
    but i thought back to this, and opted for “free no-rush delivery” because i honestly didn’t need my items right away, after all; one is a Christmas gift

    i feel good ☺️

  • Olive Decker

    My favorite thing about his videos is he examines a wide spread problem and actually proposes a solution rather than trying to blame someone

  • Natasha Kalanda

    This is very helpful…but I feel like I neeed mooore content…seems your series are not updated with 2018 stuff? Give me mooooorrreee…#fanfromAfrica

  • Stephen Stone

    The green option is a great idea, and it's an easy way to let customers know that shipping has an effect on the environment!

  • bonbons

    Amazon does offer in house incentives for no rush shipping tbh my issue is the sheer amount of trash I have to throw out just to get my items, I dont need something packed in several layers of packaging unless its fragile…. they need to reduce the waste produced through shipping practices, especially all that damn plastic puffy stuff….

  • Alexis Boom

    1. Carbon tax effectively. Higher emission shipping costs more to me and you, so we might choose to use slower deliveries.

    2. Electric motoring. Electrification reduces emissions overall by 50—80%, ships can run on hydrogen fuel cell or molten salt reactor, trucks can run on hydrogen fuel cell or batteries.

  • jessicaaaturbox3

    I watched this video a year ago and yesterday when I placed an order for a christmas gift, I didn't choose 2 day shipping bc i don't need my items right away. This video's probably the most memorable vox video for me 🙂

  • Mumsiken

    Oh man one more thing on the list.
    1. Avoid single use item.
    2. Recycle batteries
    3. Recycle plastic bags
    4. Buy bulk
    5. Buy organic
    6. Buy local
    7. Buy buy juice containers
    8. Recycle compost
    9. Recycle electronics
    10. Repair instead of replace
    11. Buy quality over quantity
    Thank God I avoid most left turns not because I m scared because they take longer.

  • Anna133199

    Two-day/five-day shipping? My country is so small in size that it's very often 'bought before 23:00 or 17:00 hours today? Delivered tomorrow!'

  • Mari F.

    There's a couple companies in my city that have the "bike delivery" option. It takes 2 or 3 days longer, but it's cheaper and there's no fuel used so it's a much greener choice!

  • Leone Lelen

    but the problem is, online shopping often offer the customer a cheaper price than when the customer buys directly in the store, this will make the customer keep buying online rather than buy in the store.

  • Olaf Trevilla

    Animal Agriculture is the number 1 producer of greenhouse emissions in the U.S, more than the whole automotive sector. If you really want to make an Impact by helping our environment, go vegan:)

  • jbrandt

    Source information? It would be nice to see the studies or reports for some of this information. For example, the 2-day shipping argument in this video makes a lot of sense. However, logistics has become quite sophisticated and a study would have to be done to validate this claim. Hypothetically speaking cargo trucks for a company could on average go out being less than full. Thus, adding a 2-day shipping option may have a very marginal impact depending on how often trucks leave and or how full.

  • Gregory Schubert

    Would the most energy efficient delivery be to have the UPS truck come to your neighborhood once a week instead of everyday?

  • jaja

    99% of things that unnessecary cause global warming are just ”comfort” things.. not things we NEED but just things we want for fun and comfort. We could easily live with longer shipping and just ban these things like free returns etc.

  • Wai Yan Win Aung

    I don't understand how people in the comments are denying the videos just because 'they want their stuff next morning'. You guys just watched a video explaining to you how bad this is.

  • Him Bike

    When is VOX going to do a video on the environmental cost of
    The obamas flying TWO different jets across the USA to Hollywood
    to be on two different TV shows on the same day !!!!!
    I know, it’s against the law to criticize the one

  • Peter Matthew

    Can you make a video on how much greenhouse gasses it takes to produce one burger?
    Stop focusing on the tiny fraction of the problem, highlight the REAL problem: animal agriculture.

  • Science in Greece

    If you read the paper you'll see "traditional shopping" actually has greater impact only because it takes into consideration "consumer transportation". If you live in a city and support local shops, it's easy to just walk or bike for everyday items, meaning that even slow online delivery is really bad for the environment. This video is very good, but slightly misleading.
    (Paper: google Environmental Analysis of US Online Shopping
    ,MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics, Dimitri Weideli)

  • Jordan Lucero

    Amazon's doing a great job at this. If you have Prime they let you delay delivery by a day to get stuff in fewer packages, or choose No-Rush shipping (which is essentially the green option as shown in the video) and they actually give you money off digital items, as they are saving money too. Love it!

  • Jerimbo

    If you’re in a city, go to a shop. It makes more sense for everyone to walk to one shop that has been supplied by one lorry than for a van to drive round all the neighbourhoods.

  • 12squared Network

    Our number one problem is the amount of plastic that is being generated by developed Eurioean and Western countries every day. hint its in the millions of tons and many of these tons of plastic end up in the oceans where they coalesce and ruin beaches and coastlines. Not to mention the devastating effect they have on the marine fauna. More plastic is expected to be in the ocean than there are currecntly fish right now by 2050. Not only that but these plastic particles break down into microscopic sized plastic particluates that are ingested by fish and then reingested by humans when we eat those fish. humans are literally eating garbage indirectly through tainted fish! We NEED to find an alternative to plastic NOW before the billions of Indians and Chinese emerge out of poverty and begin to demand a middle class lifestyle like the west complete with plastic bags and wrappings for everything. Imagine the billions and trillions of plastic waste that is going to be generated by these countries when they develop in the near future! Ban plastic now!

  • Scott

    What I actually took away from this video is it is not me having things shipped but the trucks releasing CO2. So, lets change that. I know Tesla has a new electric truck which means that Mack Freighliner and Volvo are not far behind. Lets make that change. We also need to change our mail boxes. Instead of having these small boxes that are only good for letters lets have mail boxes that can hold packages. Remember those old drop boxes at Blockbuster that you could turn you movies in even when they were closed? Well, something like that. We could also relieve a lot of traffic congestion by having drivers deliver at night instead of high traffic rush hour. My new routine could be I wake up in the morning with my cup of coffee and sort through my shopping packages. The future looks awesome!

  • Antoinette Parry

    It's about time the US has had a good electic rail system. That might solve a lot of problems. A very fast national system.

  • Kyle Erasmus

    It seems this channel is reserved for irrational BS, the host has no measured values for any form of cost related to shipping periods and types, and bases his statements on total Thumbsuck. He is not aware that express delivery can be cheaper since there is less transport involved, which totally debunks his BS argument, and is the primary reason for it being cheaper. The slower transport involves more handling, and more inefficient transport, which due to its inefficiency uses more fuel, and hence the extra charge. The product seller gains nothing from taking longer to deliver a product to you, and is no longer in possession of the goods after they leave his warehouse. The third party transporter also gains nothing from making you wait, but has additional handling costs and transport inefficiencies, due in part to more fuel being used, which generates costs that must be covered.

  • Avika Chua

    Just curious: what is the reason for online shopping having a smaller carbon footprint than in-store shopping?

  • Σίμος Γιαννακός

    action + reaction thus is the truth. everything has its consicuencies, that is why thinking is important before acting.

  • SameerSlash

    Green option sounds like a fantastic idea. I'm sure there are plenty of people who are patient and willing to reduce their footprint.

  • Rhuth K

    People should buy more clothes from second-hand cloth stores like Goodwill because that helps in reducing the cloth waste that we create in a year. Secondly, the clothes are cheap and does not encourage branded companies to make more clothes which helps in reducing consumerism.

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