Not shopping for two weeks!?

25 10 2009

This should have been the easiest part of challenge 2. We have everything we could possibly need! Roy and I basically agreed that we would stick to purchasing food only and items for a new sustainable garden and walkway we were building outside (part an effort to minimize the amount of grass in our yard that needs to be maintained and watered). We also agreed to make as few trips as possible to the grocery store and garden store. 

This challenge was hard for me. There is something exciting about shopping, searching for the perfect item and then getting it for a great price! I certainly had my work cut out for me. Luckily there was very little time for shopping over the two weeks, making it a bit easier. I am here to say we survived the two weeks!  I do not feel like we missed out on anything except for the exhilaration! I do not feel like it freed up much time as I have concluded we do most of our consuming via the internet, not running around town. This is in part because we have very little time. 

The exercise did make me realize that we are typical American’s and consume far too much. I used some of my spare time from this exercise going room to room, decluttering, identifying items that could be donated and were no longer in use. This part of the challenge was liberating! Post the challenge, I was discussing the exercise with girl friends and which method was more environmentally conscious–shopping on-line and having packages delivered to your home versus actually visiting a store. We concluded that, as long as you did not replace the time you would have spent shopping in stores with some other energy consuming activity that on-line shopping  was actually more environmentally conscious. Our reasoning: there are multiple steps and more packaging involved in getting the product to a store, greater energy consumption in maintaining a retail establishment, and energy spent by consumers driving around  to what may be multiple locations to retrieve the desired item than in e-commerce where the consumer searches for the best price for an item and orders direct from the source’s warehouse. 

The other  part of our theory was that delivery companies were going to be on the road already–Fed Ex, UPS and the postal service. The idea of one truck with 100 targeted deliveries was more efficient than 100 cars on the road searching for the desired product. I did a little research and found a study from Carnegie Mellon University’s Green Design Institute:
http://www.cmu.edu/news/archive/2009/March/march3_onlineshopping.shtmlare
They found that shopping online via an e-commerce driven  model reduces the environmental impact with 35 percent less energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions than what is produced in the traditional retail shopping model. I am sold. I will try to make a bulk of my purchases on-line!

Climate Pilots Jane and Roy Rathbun

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