Part of the reason next-day shipping costs more is loss of efficiency. On average, it is three times less efficient.

A recent Palm Beach Post article discussed the possibility of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos losing his “richest man in the world” title to Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Buried among the reasons was the increased cost of next-day shipping. With more people choosing to have it tomorrow, Amazon’s profits took a hit the last few quarters.

But the true cost of next-day shipping is something we need to be aware of, and, hopefully, decide that helping the planet breathe a little better is worth an extended wait.

Part of the reason next-day shipping costs more is loss of efficiency. On average, it is three times less efficient. The efficiency loss manifests in a near tripling in the cost of everything in the deliver chain. Three times the number of drivers, pilots, trucks, planes and handlers are necessary for next-day packages because getting them from Point A to Point B quickly means they cannot wait in a warehouse, loading dock, or air terminal to fit effectively into a delivery system designed for volume. The typical next-day item travels through that system in vehicles that are 65% empty.

There is some truth to the perception that staying at home and shopping online reduces one’s carbon footprint. But, when someone chooses next-day delivery, that small environmental benefit disappears, and their carbon footprint grows exponentially. When three mostly empty cargo planes and trucks replace otherwise full ones, air pollution triples. By tripling its contribution to congestion at terminals and on highways, next-day shipping slows all traffic; creating a multiplying effect that leads to unnecessary infrastructure expansion, wasteful land-use and additional pollution.

Next-day shipping may cost Jeff Bezos a few billion, but its cost to our planet is what we really need to thinking about.

TIMOTHY HULLIHAN, NORTH PALM BEACH

Editor’s note: Hullihan is an architect, and a board member of Sustainable Palm Beach County.



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