Last-minute online shopping can be costly in both dollars and pollution. Choosing next-day delivery puts purchased products on a plane that burns far more carbon-producing fossil fuel than ground transportation. But there’s a better way, and how we package gifts for shipping counts.
Order and ship early. Building in more lead time affords less costly shipping options. Eco-wise, if the shipper has some freedom in scheduling deliveries, it can choose to hold up a delivery truck until it’s full, rather than sending one out half-empty. Also, if a package doesn’t have to reach its destination by a particular day or time, the company can choose the most efficient local delivery routing.
A recent University of Washington study found that a community using grocery delivery services slashed carbon emissions when compared to individuals driving to the supermarket. Plus, they achieved their biggest gains—80 to 90 percent lower emissions—when they could plan deliveries around customer locations, rather than precise delivery windows, thus minimizing driving distance and time on the road.
Seek out available boxes. Many grocery and beverage stores don’t immediately break down incoming cardboard shipping boxes. Ask a store attendant if they have any available. Reusing saved paper bags from checkout (for those that don’t bring reusable bags) can serve to cushion gift-wrapped boxes. GreenAmerica.org suggests repurposing gently-used wrapping paper or old fabrics, newspapers, magazines or calendars for a creative look. Return any foam peanuts in received packages to a pack-n-ship shop for reuse.
Know the options. While U.S. Postal Service (usps.com) Priority Mail offers flat rates to any state regardless of weight (up to 70 pounds), package tracking and other year-round features, the cost of using other carriers varies by destination zip code, package size and weight. Verify price and timing options, making sure packages arrive in good time to be under the Christmas tree before December 25.