The environmental cost of free two-day shipping

The environmental cost of free two-day shipping

What’s the environmental impact of online shopping and what are the solutions to make it more sustainable?

Climate Lab is produced by the University of California in partnership with Vox. Hosted by conservation scientist Dr. M. Sanjayan, the videos explore the surprising elements of our lives that contribute to climate change and the groundbreaking work being done to fight back. Featuring conversations with experts, scientists, thought leaders and activists, the series demystifies topics like nuclear power, food waste and online shopping to make them more approachable and actionable for those who want to do their part. Sanjayan is an alum of UC Santa Cruz, a Visiting Researcher at UCLA and the CEO of Conservation International.

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94 Responses

  1. 5%LowBattery says:

    Happy Friday everyone

  2. Mr Hamilton says:

    Point of no return was a long time ago

    • firekram says:

      Diego Ruiz No what you need is for green options to become cheaper and more efficient then non green options.

      The poorest citizens cannot engage with the new green tech.

      The rich will be green because of social pressure

      The middle class will be green because of environmental concerns

      The poor cannot be green until they have no other choice.

    • Charles Eye says:

      firekram Exactly. It’s like telling people in the trailer park that they really should be eating organic. That’s all well and good but organic is more expensive than even name brand food and we’re talking about people who can barely afford the generic. Anyone whose life is notably affected by a ten cent increase on the price of TV dinners is not looking into buying EVs or retrofitting their home with solar.

    • KatreadsM says:

      Lots can be done with that attitude . Congratulations for being lazy af.

    • iBelieveEverything iSeeOnYoutube says:

      bluepeps is right. the planet won’t die. just our ability to make it a sustainable place to live. the planet will more than likely fix itself once we’re gone. unless it collides with something massive and explodes into a trillion pieces of space rock.

    • Brian Ivey says:

      Mr Hamilton We are not there yet. We now deal with the effects already through hurricanes and floods, but there is still time. Here’s a link for you to get started. There’s much more to gain figuring out the solutions than merely giving up this soon.

  3. Harshit Malhotra says:

    Well in India for door to door delivery we use bikes instead of trucks, so you can consolidate up to a particular level only.
    This expidited delivery is not a problem however, extra protective packaging is an environment hazard.

    • 不謹慎 says:

      Michael Williams Do you have another country to compare to? I’ve been to the Netherlands. So much different from the US in terms of bike usage. In my city just going anywhere you will see 2-3 people on a bike compared to thousands in cars and buses. You would think it’s a little different in the countryside which I lived in most of my life but I almost never saw anyone walking or riding a bike for exercise or anything else.

    • Randy Lahey says:

      不謹慎 It’s not really an option in most former British colonies like the U.S., Canada, Australia, and NZ. Cities aren’t dense enough (with obvious exceptions like NYC, Toronto, etc) to support cycling or mass public transit.

    • Shivam Shukla says:

      Randy Lahey then vox should make video on future of cities

    • Randy Lahey says:

      Shivam Shukla The future is electric, autonomous cars. There are measures to take to make New world cities more accessible, but they’ll never be as accessible as major, developed European or Asian cities unless they want to start from scratch.

  4. Syazwan Sanep says:

    So online shopping=global warming?

  5. Dargies M. says:

    Why don’t the companies fix the issue of carbon emissions? This is like the recycling campaign put on by the plastic/soda/bottle industry a few decades ago. Make the companies invest in electric cars. Tesla came out with an electric 18-wheeler. Get congress to implement a carbon cap to the companies. I pay for the 2 day shipping through an annual fee. Is that going to be reduced if I don’t get 2 day shipping? Probably not. Why do I have to suffer and still pay for the 2 day shipping?? The companies win, and the customer pays for it. Enforce a carbon cap on the companies, and the problem can be managed.

    • brendan95delany says:

      “Get congress to” – good luck with that. Congress can’t seem to do nearly anything right (I’m and not talking in terms of political ideologies – this is in general).

    • Joshua Pearce says:

      “Why don’t the companies fix the issue of carbon emissions?” Because “companies” are not one universal blob of people with money. How the heck is a small company that sells socks supposed to fix anything?

    • Benjamin Brooks says:

      The costs are always passed on to the consumer. No matter how you cap and tax the company, the customer always pays the extra cost in the end.

    • Lili says:

      Dargies M. R4⁴444444444444444444444444444444444⁴4⁴⁴444444444⁴⁴ 54 444444444⁴44444444444444444444444444444444444444444444⁴44444544444444444⁴444544444444r4 err 4rrr4rrrrrrrr445⁴445⁴44⁴44444rrr⁴445 really 54 4r55

    • plumear says:

      Dargies M. Okay I just wanna point out…. when you say: “I pay for the 2 day shipping through an annual fee. (…) why do I have to suffer and still pay for the 2 day shipping???” Presumably….no one’s forcing you to pay $100 a year for prime. idk if you use prime for other things, but that’s a choice you made.. and saying “why do I have to suffer?” makes it sound like it wasn’t your choice to participate

      I agree there should be a carbon cap or tax, and that companies’ carbon emissions need to be more strictly regulated rather than just blaming consumers… but also: no one’s forcing you to pay that fee, pay for that service.

  6. LJ says:

    Vox meeting:
    Lets see, what else can we ruin for people

  7. Bob McCoy says:

    *Thanks Amazon*

    • Dong Kim says:

      it has to do with scale. because as you can see, their argument is because truck is not filled completely, so it must be bad for environment. question is how much? like if doing all that will only save you say a dollar in environmental impact, that it has no incremental value. what would be better to focus on is to get that electric trucks to change all these trucks which will have incremental value of say 100 dollars compared to these changes. just like the analogy with the bus, just because bus is not full does not mean it necessarily makes it bad. time matters, and economies of scales matter.

    • firekram says:

      Dong Kim lets not get carried away. Centalized power generation is more effective the individual power generation.

      The individual scale is years away from being ready. For now we have… Wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear. Ideally we should have the smallest number of nuclear plants possible serving the areas where the other generation options are not viable

      Nuclear is the cleanest, but the most dangerous when something goes wrong

    • Ricardo Perez says:

      Amazon offers credit to choose slower shipping because the option to go ‘green’ save them $ as well.

    • Yasashi says:

      Bruh I work at amazon and log each pallet of boxes that is loaded up on trucks. We never send out a truck ‘half full’ and if that is done it’s done through the postal service, not amazon.

    • Dong Kim says:

      exactly, which is why this vid is just full of crap

  8. Sean NB says:

    More from this fella, please!

  9. Hey It's Will says:

    Do a video how organic food hurts the earth

    • Hey It's Will says:

      Jonathan Palmquist yes but they do more that hurts our earth than good

    • peaches says:

      Do a video about how unsustainable animal agriculture is (far, far worse than organic foods will ever be)

    • Marc o'polo says:

      Hey It’s Will , the article is an interesting read, but there’s two things missing imo.
      First, it talks about the fact that we already use too much land for farming, and we cannot afford to use a more, which I agree, but most of this landmass (between 60 and 75% ) is used to grow soja and other cereals only meant to be consumed by animals. If people chose to significantly cut meat from their diet, all this lands becomes available to grow products that humans can directly consume, solving the problem of land use.

      Second thing that it fails to mention is the positive impact of organic farming on biodiversity. In this aspect organic products really outclass the competition. To me this is a very strong selling point since I believe that climate change is not only a CO2 issue, but a very global one that, amongst others, involves biodiversity and water use. If an organic produce manages to significantly improve those aspects while using slightly more land I’m totally fine with that.

      i do totally agree on the general advice to use evidence-based farming technique, I just think there are more variables than CO2 emissions.

    • Jessica Lee says:

      It’s a pity because it wouldn’t be that hard to fix the problem. Organic certification is strict. The land must be free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers for many years in order for crops to be certified organic. That makes it very difficult for farms to make any _transition_ to organic growing – there’s no credit for farms stopping the use of chemicals, working toward their organic certification (for ten years, if I remember correctly), so almost no farms do that. If they did, THAT would be better for the environment, not worse.

      Instead they clear forests and destroy wetlands – places that have never been farmed. It would be better if there were organic “grade” certifications for farms that had only recently _become_ organic, so farms could make the transition without going bankrupt, rather than clearing new land. Organic crops are in demand, and sell for higher prices, so plenty of farms (especially vegetable farms) would be motivated to do it.

      It’s one of those hidden environmental problems (like the environmental cost of two-day shipping, I suppose).

    • MrCerebellum2 says:

      peaches meh that subject isn’t hipstery liberal quirky enough for Vox to do.

  10. YepItsThatGuy says:

    Sanjayan is fast becoming my favourite Vox producer

  11. DonYelle and Diana says:

    i’ve been wondering about this!

    • Brusef Mcknight says:

      As a ups worker this is kinda wrong. With 2 day delivery we fill up two 26foot trailers at the same time hitch them up with most packages filling it up all the way it’s to save time and get most packages out to the next building faster. If there is a lack of packages in truck most of the time its due to a lack if packages heading to a rural area with a lower population and thus not enough flow to fill the trucks 100%

    • minnie crawford says:

      DonYelle and Diana I haven’t lol

    • Jacob 007 says:

      DonYelle and Diana I want to cuddle with you

    • firekram says:

      They did not have a single industry source in the whole video

      If you are going to trash Amazon, get their statement

    • jasen ratnam says:


  12. Marielle P says:

    im just poor tbh

    • A. P. says:

      if 2 day shipping is free, standard shipping should be free too

    • gingerAV says:

      idk how that’s relevant?

    • Jene Clyde says:

      It’s relevant in understanding why some people would choose the free option rather than the standard option. Shipping fees are extremely expensive, though I do online shopping if its something I really cannot find at the stores. But that’s looking at something that is 35 dollars and add shipping makes it 40 dollars. While I only make 40 dollars, that’s all my money. Shipping cost need to either be lowered or add a fee to faster shipping.

    • Aver Raiher says:

      The topic here is about situation where both options are free, like free 2 days shipping vs free standard 3-5 days. For example if you have Amazon Prime you get access to free 2 day shipping, but you can still choose standard shipping, which is also free.

    • Chynna says:

      If you can afford 2 day shipping you’re not poor. It be like 3 dollas

  13. 78deathface says:

    Amazon in Canada is still pretty much just books that take 2 weeks to arrive. (*insert tired dog sled joke here)

    • Matthew Hailu says:

      we must be using 2 different amazon ca websites then

    • Nik says:

      Amazon in Europe is more expensive than other online shops. Still the most popular one…

    • Mathieu Levert says:

      Toronto-Montreal delivery are made overnight. I always choose free delivery and most of the time if I order my stuff in the morning I’ll get it the following day.

      78deathface Where do you live? In Prince Edward Island or in the north?

    • bbgoodnough says:

      Shopping online here is so brutal. Most things have to come from the US, which means longer distances, getting through customs, etc.

  14. Nour T. says:

    Okay, that caused a bit of dilemma for me. If I took the longest option, they would take time and I need that item asap, so it’s just more convenient of me to go to the nearest shop, which sometimes won’t have things I wanted, OR i would take the shorter route so that I can get the thing I wanted but in the end harming environment.

    I know that environment’s important, but ffs there isn’t any game shop near me that seels Nintendo Switch, damnit. >:c

    • Jonathan Palmquist says:

      You’re fine. He’s talking about people that have Prime and get every little thing online, like multiple times a week.

  15. M W says:

    Shhhhh let me live in my bubble

  16. Shaggad M says:


    “I probably don’t need socks delivered overnight to my door”

    But why not

  17. Ajay Prakash says:

    The same concept should be applied in cars as well . U Americans get big 4-6 sitter cars and how many people are actually inside ? One or two probably . It causes way more problems than this shipping issue you’re talking. And let’s be real no one wants to wait a week for their stuff to arrive .

  18. Quick Fix says:

    Normal delivery button should be renamed green delivery button! It’s easy to add it and a lot of people would actually use it.

  19. Carlos Pacheco says:

    How is this not better than me, getting into my car, using gas for one person to go out and buy socks? Are you offsetting the fact that as more overnight shipping becomes available that people will feel less need to buy cars or drive to the store or have someone wait outside idling while I go pick up something?

  20. U Wot M8 says:

    What’s the environmental cost of watching youtube videos?

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