The On-Demand Economy Hurts the Environment. We Can Help.

Chipotle burritos that arrive within minutes of getting the munchies. Christmas gifts delivered within mere hours of hours of ordering. Groceries brought to you on-demand so you can keep binge-watching Master of None.  As The Simpsons said: what a time to be alive!

But what's the flip side of all this convenience?  What's the cost?

This week, the New York Times wrote a revealing piece called “E-Commerce:  Convenience Built on a Mountain of Cardboard”, that highlighted the environmental and psychological effects of ecommerce and the on-demand economy.  The piece does a fantastic job breaking down the issues in depth, but to summarize:

From a sustainability perspective, we’re heading in the wrong direction.
— Dr. Dan Sperling
  • The Internet retailer arms race to deliver instantaneously has pitted giants like Amazon and Google against billion-dollar “upstarts” like Postmates, Instacart, and more.
  • eCommerce shipments create two kinds of waste that are growing rapidly: cardboard / packaging waste and emissions from freight services.
  • Instant delivery models create inefficiencies for trucking companies, as drivers deliver as little as one item at a time to individuals, as opposed to large deliveries to stores.
  • As shoppers become more and more addicted to instant gratification, the guilt piles up alongside the stacks of boxes.

To quote Dr. Dan Sperling from the Institute of Transportation Studies, “From a sustainability perspective, we’re heading in the wrong direction.”  Ultimately, Dr. Sperling said that consumers share as much responsibility for the environmental costs.

Personally, I struggle with this.  I love eCommerce.  LOVE it.  Like take it to senior prom and buy it a promise ring kind of love.  I love the convenience of shopping from my couch, being able to avoid driving through a maze of Atlanta traffic and then winding through a gauntlet of dressing rooms.

Simultaneously, I hate waste.  It must be the engineer side of me, but I am always the guy who takes home the leftovers, I always recycle, and I hate inefficiency.  So while I want to sit on my couch and use Amazon Prime to get Scotch tape, I recoil when it comes packaged in a 3-foot box.  As a huge supporter of eco-initiatives, whether it’s honeybees or sea turtles or big cats, I believe we have incredibly precious resources to protect.

Like you, I want to have my eCommerce cake and eat it too.

Now, the Times spends a lot of time highlighting the issues.  But what about the solutions?  How can businesses make things better, both for shoppers and the environment?

That’s where Fittery can help.

We’re not a packaging company, and we’re not a transportation company.  So how can we help?  How can we attack this growing waste problem?

We look upstream.

Clothing is the #1 category of products bought online, and 30 - 40% of purchases online end up getting returned.  And the #1 reason for those returns?  

Fit.

4 out of 10 times, all those issues we mentioned before - excess packaging, emissions from reverse logistics, etc. - get rewound and played again.  Returns are the hidden ecological costs in the on-demand economy.

That’s where Fittery comes in.  We’re passionate about helping people shop smarter, about helping people find clothes that fit their body and style better than ever before.  We can cut down on all those extra returns by helping shoppers find exactly what works for them, thus eliminating all the extra packaging and vehicle emissions that comes from reverse logistics.  

Understanding what to buy eliminates the need to send it back.  Simple.

There are other innovative services can help offset eco-impacts from eCommerce, too.  Fellow Atlanta startup Roadie is an “on the way” delivery tool that lets shopper ship with people already heading to their destination, and STORD is a new storage solution using existing empty storage spaces in your neighborhood to allow for space reuse and less travel to storage locations.  These are the type of products that help increase efficiency and reuse what we have.

As Dr. Sperling said, we all have a responsibility to do our part.  Join us and help make shopping smarter, not just for you, but for the honeybees, sea turtles, big cats….you know.  All of us.