Environmental Correctness: Online Shopping vs. Malls

I look forward to voting a straight Democratic ticket in 2020.

But if Elizabeth Warren gets the nomination, I may have a dilemma.

It’s not that she’s not smart, and she’s certainly well-organized.  (And of course I’d vote for her.)

But in June, a headline in the New York Times read: “Ms. Warren seeks to break up companies like Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook. And she has taken her fight to Silicon Valley.”

That could wreck my non-driving lifestyle.

I don’t drive.  I made this decision decades ago because of environmental concerns.  According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Collectively, cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all US emissions, emitting around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases for every gallon of gas.”

But in the last decade, developers have ruined my non-driving life-style.  After the big malls opened in the exurbs, stores in the city and inner-suburbs  closed.  It is no longer possible to do my shopping in the area.  And I refuse to waste hours riding buses to a mall.

And so I discovered what everybody knows:  you can shop online.  I have ordered a weird array of stuff at Amazon and many other online stores.   Let’s see, a particular brand of soap, tables (one is now a bird-watching post for the cats), a Christmas tree, office supplies, blankets, shoes, and an alarm clock, because they no longer sell them at Target.

I’ve often wondered if not driving is also “a classics-brain thing.”  When I was in college, three of us in classics didn’t drive.  Since then, I’ve met others in classics who don’t drive.  It’s very ancient of us, don’t you think?

There is much in favor of not driving.  Shopping by mail saves energy on the consumer end, because  we’re not driving to the mall. But whether the delivery of packages via planes and cars to online shoppers wastes as much energy as the delivery of goods by trucks to megastores, with the consumer driving added, I couldn’t say.

If I could find any hard data, I’d share it, but mostly I’ve found ranting against Amazon without statistics to back it up.  At the EPA website, however, I found an interesting article about ordering groceries online, which of course is preferable for people who have “health or mobility issues.”

“A recent USDA survey found that in 88% of U.S households, people hop in their car to buy groceries, driving an average of 4 miles to their preferred store. If each of these households took at least one trip per week, that would add up to over 42 billion miles driven round-trip each year—about 10 times the distance to Pluto!…

“By letting your food share a ride with other orders, grocery delivery has the potential to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. However, how much this would lower pollution—if at all—depends on many factors.

What do you think about online shopping? Anybody have any stats? And do you know any non-drivers?

14 thoughts on “Environmental Correctness: Online Shopping vs. Malls”

  1. I shop a lot on line: underwear, antacid tablets, books (of course), DVDs (of course), a Kindle, shoes, ink tanks, a shower bench, a vintage all-cotton sheet, hearing aid batteries, more underwear, men’s pull-on pants (when my husband was still alive), — and that’s just what comes easily to mind. For people with a disability, or taking care of a family member with a disability, or no longer driving, or inconveniently situated, on-line shopping opens a world of equal opportunity accessibility. I too have wondered whether there is any net saving of energy. There are too many different factors to calculate, but it can certainly save a lot of human time and energy.

    1. What a lot we can get online! I agree. It is so convenient for many of us. We can shop for things we might not be able to find in a city without going to multiple stores.

  2. I shop online because I can’t find decent and varied older women’s clothes in shops. I can waste hours in traffic, parking, wandering in malls and come home with one item. I order from other places than Amazon because Amazon is a monopoly and driving up prices, and (paradoxically) causing slowly less variety to be presented (especially ironically in the book area, still a great strength, because Beozoa wants to sell his junk facsimiles). So I agree about online shopping but not about Warren’s goals.

    1. Yes, all that running around trying to find something nice to wear. Our big department store here went out of business, and now I no longer even try.

  3. I’m currently not driving much for health reasons, which means I do a lot of online ordering too. And the environmental argument for driving as little as possible is powerful!

    At the same time, even though as an author I’m pretty much joined at the hip with Amazon, I share the concern that they’re a monopoly. So I guess I hope they can be broken up a bit without crushing small-time authors and ill/disabled people like me.

    1. Well, it’s always best to shop local (if possible), so I really should agree with you and Elizabeth! It’s the urban sprawl that makes this so difficult for me.

      Sent from my iPad


        1. It’s a pity! We’re behind here in this city, so urban sprawl hasn’t affected me till fairly recently.

          On Mon, Aug 12, 2019 at 12:13 PM Thornfield Hall: A Book Blog wrote:


  4. I have to admit I love the immediacy of ordering books from Amazon. Its like having a wand! Hitting the “order now” button is my ‘swish and flick’. I don’t order other things so much, maybe a DVD (or a jar of Polish mustard that is impossible to find in Alabama even at Whole Paycheck), but the potential is there (if I want to) which is a potent spell all of its own.

  5. Kat, I am not an on line shopper for most things. Books are an exception since our local B&N doesn’t have a lot, but we do have a great independent bookstore and a couple of used bookstores and a very good library. Maybe, I’m getting old, but I like to feel the fabric for clothing, sheets, etc and don’t get me started on shoes! On line is convenient; it seems that we all need to get used to a new way of shopping…ugh!

    1. Jean, it’s good to have that “tactile” shopping experience. Much as I enjoy the internet, I miss the experience of hopping on a bus and going to the department store. Since Younkers was the anchor store at the malls here, the malls are dying, too. Except for the giant mall in the next county, which is simply overwhelming.

  6. PS I’ll vote for any democrat. However, if William Weld somehow got the Republican nomination, I’d consider voting for him especially if I didn’t like the Democratic nominee. He was a wonderful governor in MA and he’s actually one of the few Republicans I ever voted for!

    1. I don’t know who William Weld is, but I’ll keep my eye out. So many people are running for president that I only know a few names so far.

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