The Last Mile’s Lasting Impact On Sustainable Delivery

With the rise of the online shopping craze comes the unexpected impacts it has on our environment. When delivery options become increasingly convenient, the contributions to greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow. Modern consumers want transparency and should be aware of the fulfillment process of their deliveries and understand the impacts it may be having. Let’s talk about what happens after you click that magic button, place order now.

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What is The Last Mile?

So after you receive that order confirmation and your package has been packed and sent out, the box will travel on a multitude of vehicles from cargo ships to delivery vans. The Last Mile is quite literally the last stage of the delivery process and where the largest carbon impact is made. This impact grows exponentially when faster delivery options are selected. The paradox of the situation is that when customers are choosing what they find to be the most efficient option, it's actually the most expensive and least sustainable one.


For example, a group of researchers at MIT found that fast shipping not only increases costs by up to 68%, it also increases total carbon emissions by up to 15%

The issue with the last mile is that each individual package is now on individual trucks traveling to your individual destination which essentially can exponentially increase fuel consumption. The transportation sector is the single most significant contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., standing at 27% as reported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Image by Claudio Schwarz


So what can we do to effect change?

As a consumer:

  1. Stop using expedited shipping when you can. Opting for a slower delivery time is not only cost-effective but some brands will even offer incentives for doing so

  2. Try pick up locations or using in-store pickup when possible

  3. Shop the old fashioned way! Buying local and in-person benefits your local community and minimizes the amount of delivery vehicles on the road

  4. Bundling multiple purchases in one order can lower fuel consumption emissions from delivery vehicles- so buy in bulk. This is also a great way to save money. Some websites, like Amazon, actually offer shipping options where you can bundle all your purchases into one delivery, rather than getting them one by one at their earliest convenience


As a business owner:

  1. Offer longer shipping times at lower cost. According to a study by First Insight, the majority of consumers across all generations admitted they would opt for products advertised as sustainable even at a higher cost, so educate your buyers on why they are choosing conservation over convenience

  2. Offer bundles, multi-packs, and product collections. Not only does this boost sales and inspire your customers to try more products, but it also is the more sustainable option

  3. Efficiently pack and ship your products. This again saves on shipping costs and lowers your company’s emissions

  4. Use delivery carriers that offer carbon offset and more sustainable shipping options

  5. Offer convenient pickup locations for your customers if possible


It’s time to reconsider the modern way of consumption and return back to our roots– after all there’s nothing more therapeutic than a shopping day. With convenience comes great impact and we all could be more conscious about our shopping habits.

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