Buying Green Online - Gasoline Saver Or Climate Bigfoot?


With gasoline prices rising so, we expect consumers to increasingly shop online to reduce their personal climate "footprint" and save money. Especially if the green products selection is good.

To explore this question a bit, we checked out the Amazon green product listing where one can find many of the familiar "green" items and then some. A total of 713 items were "tagged" as green by customers. Click and scroll, click and scroll.Wait a minute...what on earth is "green" about the Watts Premier Hot Water Recirculation Pump, Blue #500800? Turns out it's an electric circulator pump that keeps hot pipes from the far off hot water tank constantly flowing, so when one turns on a distant faucet or shower it gets "hot" quickly.

A reader pointed out that the device "saves water". Right - while running a motor constantly and transferring a ton of heat from the plumbing to the home interior. Amazingly no commenting customers bothered to point out the alternative of an "on demand" hot water heater which saves water and energy.

A bit more general issue emerged after several screens worth. Is it really good for the planet to buy laundry detergent or organic breakfast cereal or chocolate milk, mail order? Well, maybe, if the customer lives far out in the country - more than a bike ride from a Whole Foods. But we're not sure. Are customers even thinking about that?

There's some constructive looking Amazon operating site case studies described here.

Ironically, Amazon sells several books like this one: Public Policies for Environmental Protection. Yet there is no corporate policy statement to be found about the environment or climate change on the website.

There also is a PDF download link for a somewhat dated looking academic publication on the pros and cons of E-commerce (when was the last time you heard that term?) from which we excerpted this sentence.

E-commerce logistics systems involve more reliance upon airfreight service than truck or rail modes. Airfreight requires much higher energy and fuel usage, with corresponding large air pollution emissions.
We are left to muse about how the fuel saving trade-offs will play in an era of $200 a barrel oil. Very likely, the days of heavy reliance on air freight and 'next day delivery' are limited. We will all have to become more patient.

Wouldn't it be nice to see a carbon footprint estimate for each shipping method choice? Perhaps an offset purchase option? Until then,'s a jungle out there.

Image credit::Ystradyfodwg Monthly, Amazon Jungle