May 05, 2008

Is E-Commerce A Green Alternative?

Third-party catalog opt-out services remind the world how awful and intrusive some catalog marketers can be.

And with gas racing toward $5 a gallon, we begin to believe that shopping in stores isn't eco-friendly, either.

That leaves e-commerce as a viable alternative. No paper wasted, no gasoline burned in the pursuit of a short-sleeved t-shirt.

I'm wondering if anybody is aware of studies of the ecological impact of e-commerce? For instance, check out this link about data centers, courtesy of Paul Kedrosky, via McKinsey.

Consider this example:

A customer chooses not to shop brands that ruin forests via catalog marketing. So she powers up her plastic laptop, which uses a plastic wireless router, connected via a plastic cord to a plastic DSL router, connected via a plastic cord to a plastic panel on a wall. This allows the customer to connect to the internet, a world fueled by electricity and data servers. In the United States, electricity is largely fueled by coal.

The customer uses her plastic computer and plastic connections to read an e-mail marketing ad (all fueled by plastic servers that use electricity from coal), an ad that features an item with free shipping from an e-commerce retailer. The customer buys the item (who doesn't love free shipping?).

It all makes me wonder how "green" we're being when we consume anything? Heck, you're burning coal just reading my daily musings! Oh oh.

Is there an environmentally friendly approach to multichannel retailing?