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Image credit: AP Photo/Robert Bumsted

Fast delivery may negate the environmental benefits of online shopping

All those small deliveries add up to more emissions.

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AP Photo/Robert Bumsted

Many will tell you that online shopping is more eco-friendly since you don't have to drive as often, but just the opposite might be true in recent years. Axios has warned that the increasing number of super-fast delivery options may be leading to more CO2 emissions, not less. Annual emissions have increased at FedEx, UPS and the US Postal Service, and academics have blamed it on people making many small-but-fast orders through the likes of Amazon Prime and Walmart instead of bundling a bunch of products into one shipment. If you can get candy in minutes, why would you wait to include it with a bigger purchase?

The demand for local warehouses to speed up those orders also has an effect, Carnegie Mellon's Costa Samaras said. Those buildings need power, heat and cooling, and that means more emissions.

This doesn't mean you'll have to permanently settle on slow deliveries if you want to be kind to the planet, but it may be a while before emissions are less of an issue. Courier companies are gradually switching to hybrid and electric delivery trucks that improve their side of the equation, while the rise of delivery drones could also help. However, the data suggests that efforts to pursue carbon-neutral shipping are not only necessary, but might not be going far enough to catch up with increasing demand.

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