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Study: Online shopping increases environmental demands

By Marilyn Malara   |   Feb. 6, 2016 at 2:53 PM

NEWARK, Del., Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Online shopping may not be as environmentally friendly as once thought because it is influencing a spike in traffic, a new study by the University of Delaware found.

A multi-year regional study published in the International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Energy shows at-home shopping puts greater pressure on the roads than originally assumed, and so impacts the environment.

The act of ordering goods and services online may keep the consumer from getting in their cars and driving to the store, but it does prompt delivery trucks and other cargo vehicles to work harder to deliver products throughout an area, the study said.

"Our simulation results showed that home shopping puts an additional burden on the local transportation network, as identified through four measures of effectiveness -- travel time, delay, average speed and greenhouse gas emissions," said study co-author Mingxin Li.

In addition to observing more trucks on increasingly stressed local roads, researchers also found little evidence online shopping makes consumers drive less.

"We found that the total number of vehicle miles traveled hasn't decreased at all with the growth of online shopping," lead author Arde Faghri said. "This suggests that people are using the time they save by shopping on the internet to do other things like eating out at restaurants, going to the movies or visiting friends."

The study took place in a very limited geographic area and only looked at data in residential commerce, not online orders from commercial or industrial companies.

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