Extrabux is all about getting you cash back and saving you money. But just like Extrabux members, we’re also concerned about living more sustainably. So, in honor of Earth Day on Sunday, April 22, we’re on a quest to make the world a greener place. And we’re making it easy for Extrabux members to join our mission.
We’ve teamed up with American Forests, the oldest national nonprofit conservation organization in the country, which advocates for the protection and expansion of our nation’s forests. Our plan is simple: For every purchase made from April 19 through April 22, Extrabux will commit to plant one tree. That means every time an Extrabux member earns cash back, a tree will be planted. We’d like to aim for a whole forest.
Through our Earth Day partnership with American Forests, we’re making it easy to be green. But the truth is, at Extrabux, we’re green every day. And our members are making the world a greener place each day just by choosing e-commerce. As a whole, shopping online is much more earth friendly than traditional retail. But you don’t have to take our word for it—just ask researchers at Carnegie Mellon.
In 2008, six researchers at the Green Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University found that shopping online is 35 percent greener than shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. The study used the Buy.com business model to compare the energy use and CO2 emissions associated with delivering a flash drive from the manufacturer to a buyer’s home via traditional retail vs. e-commerce.
While the initial processes were similar—think product manufacturing and storage—the results varied greatly as the product moved down the transportation chain in each scenario. We all know the life cycle of e-commerce and traditional retail transactions vary, but what you may not realize is how much a trip to the mall impacts the environment. (Though, if you’ve ever sat in Black Friday traffic, the following results shouldn’t be much of a surprise.)
But before we get to the results, let’s examine the study methods, which took tons of variables into account for each scenario. Everything from the electricity used at home to place an order online and to run an e-commerce site to the energy used at a traditional retail store were taken into account. The study also compared the individual packaging used to ship e-sales to the bulk cardboard packaging used in shipments to a retail store along with much more data. Let’s just say the study was thorough. Now onto the findings:
When it comes to e-commerce vs. traditional commerce, the proof is in the numbers. As shown in the figure above, the e-commerce delivery delivered the flash drive to the customer while creating less CO2 emissions. As the study notes, while bulk packaging and truck delivery can reduce energy use and cost for traditional retail, the trips individuals make while traveling to retail stores add up. In other words, all those drives to the nearest big box store result in some serious carbon dioxide emissions.
In fact, the study showed that customers hitting the road had the biggest effect on the overall results. How much of an effect? The CO2 emissions created in customer transport alone—not in warehousing or freight or delivery, only the emissions generated in customers’ trips to the store—nearly equaled the total emissions related to the e-commerce system.
As noted in the study, there were five major contributors to the differential life cycle CO2 emissions in both models. Wholesale warehousing accounted for 26 percent of retail emissions and 31 percent of e-commerce. As you see in the e-commerce model, individual cardboard packaging and last-mile delivery significantly affected overall emissions, weighing in at 22 percent and 32 percent, respectively. But, when it comes to major C02 contributors, customer transport is still a much bigger offender, accounting for a whopping 65 percent of emissions.
Overall, when you consider how goods get to customers in each model, it makes sense that online shopping is simply the greener way to go. In the traditional retail model, products are shipped from distributors to regional warehouses to retail stores, where they are then bought and taken home by customers. When you buy online, goods are often shipped from a distribution partner directly to you.
The numbers don’t lie: Shopping online is simply better for the environment. While we’re talking green, let’s take a look at retailers who are making online shopping even greener this Earth Day. Here are some great Earth Day promotions to get you started:
CB2: Through its partnership with American Forests, one tree will be planted for every in-store or online purchase transacted on Earth Day.
Target: In its efforts to remind shoppers that even small changes can make a big difference, Target will celebrate Earth Day by distributing 1.5 million reusable bags in all of its stores on April 22. If you’d like to save a trip, you’ll find plenty of sustainable solutions on the retailer’s website. When you visit www.target.com/earthday, a limited-time website available through April 28, you’ll get access to more than 40 featured products, tips and tricks for living more sustainably along with links to more than $50 in savings on sustainable products. Through its website, the retailer has also partnered with Recyclebank, an organization that promotes sustainable decisions by allowing individuals to earn rewards for actions like recycling and reducing water use.
Barnes & Noble: To celebrate Earth Day, shoppers will receive a 20 percent discount on Earth-friendly toys and games from the Barnes & Noble online store.
Origins: Skin care brand Origins has partnered with Gavin DeGraw and Vanessa Carlton, who performed at the third annual Origins Rocks Earth Month, a free concert that took place in New York City on April 18. As part of the Origins Global Plant-A-Tree Program, the brand agreed to plant one tree on behalf of each concert attendee through American Forests’ Global ReLeaf™. While it’s too late to attend the concert, you can still get in on the action. In fact, when you visit www.origins.com/liveconcert to watch the rebroadcast online, additional trees are planted are behalf of viewers.
Wine.com: Don’t know much about green wines? In honor of Earth Day, Wine.com has put together a few pointers to help us better understand what exactly makes one bottle of wine more earth friendly than another. Check out the site’s Green Wine infographic, which offers the skinny on everything from organically grown grapes to lighter-weight wine bottles (less glass means it takes less energy to produce the bottle, shipping weights are lighter and there is less material to recycle—who knew?).
Avon: When you buy the “Hello Green Tomorrow” aluminum water bottle, Avon will donate all proceeds from the sale to Nature Conservancy for continuing efforts in the Atlantic Rainforest in South America and to the World Wildlife Fund for reforestation projects in Indonesia.
Groupon: To commemorate Earth Day, Groupon is launching Groupon Grassroots, through which “supporters can positively impact their communities in ways not possible by themselves, including organizing volunteer coastal cleanups or planting an orchard of fruit trees.” To celebrate the launch of the program, Groupon Grassroots will host 50 environmental campaigns, kicking off each project with a $1,000 grant. In partnership with Edward Norton’s Crowdrise, Groupon will give the campaign that raises the most money an additional $25,000, with the second- and third-highest fundraising campaigns taking home $15,000 and $10,000, respectively. And, if you’re into travel, you can check out Grassroots though Groupon Getaways, which will offer volunteer travel experience, where customers can join forces with global activists to travel to Zambia with Spark Ventures.