Carbon Calculator for Online Shopping Measures Footprint of E-Commerce

We recently wrote about how difficult is for consumers to know which is better: saving gas by purchasing items online; or, reducing one's greenhouse gas "footprint" by avoiding potentially inefficient shipping procedures (especially with reference to wasted packaging and the prevalence of air freight and partial-load deliveries).

In that post - Buying Green Online - Gasoline Saver Or Climate Bigfoot? - we suggested how useful it would be if, when choosing a shipping method, a carbon footprint estimate could be presented on the computer "checkout" screen, representing the GHG emissions associated with actual route(s) and shipping method choices. The general idea being to help consumers make a quantitative, rational decision between the several ways to 'green one's footprint' (as pictured).

As things stand, now, on Amazon, or with any other online store for that matter, evaluating that tradeoff is like putting a micrometer on a fog bank.

Along comes TerrPass, with exactly the kind of service we were thinking of!Lifting directly from the TerraPass promotion, because we can explain it no better:

"There's a new standard for calculating the carbon footprint of air travel, and it's available starting this week at Terrapass.com. Our exclusive partnership with airline data experts TRX Travel Analytics makes this best in class calculator available up to now. It is free to use, with no registration requirement, to anyone visiting TerraPass.

What makes our new air travel carbon calculator so special?

- It's the first calculator that calculates based on specific airlines and specific routes, based on our underlying data on the specific planes used to fly specific routes. This allows people to judge which airline offers the lowest carbon flight on any route before they book their travel. For example here's a look at the differences in average CO2 emissions for round trip flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to San Francisco (SFO) on different carriers.

o American 397lbs

o Delta 798lbs

o Southwest 406lbs

o US Air 350lbs

- It's the first calculator that calculates based on whether customers are flying in economy, business, or up in first class; so customers know whether their choice of service class affects their carbon footprints.

- It's the first calculator that lets customers specify direct versus connecting flights, so the impact of additional take-offs and landings can be factored into the carbon footprint calculation.

- Finally, for every flight calculation, customers can easily compare the carbon footprint of flying to the carbon cost of making the same trip in an average car, solo or car-pooling, and by train. It's never been so easy to know the most carbon-friendly way to travel."

So, after options are assessed, one can decide on some rational basis, whether to buy the lower footprint ticket, or not - perhaps compensating the less green choice with an offset purchase. Now that's cool.

There's no reason Amazon and every other online seller of goods and services could not do the same. It's all about empowering the free market to protect the planet.

And, it does not have to stop there. Environmentally aware companies have assessed the carbon footprint of their supply chains and can tell us of their per product GHG footprint "Cradle to Gate." Add that to the online footprint estimation approach perfected by TerraPass and partner, which covers the factory gate downstream, to the consumer, and you have the whole deal.

Image credit::Planktos, via TreeHugger Green Baby Steps...