SAN FRANCISCO — First there was one-stop shopping. Now there’s one-stop delivery.
Amazon has a new service that lets Prime customers get all their packages delivered one day a week, and some environmentalists are thrilled.
Announced on Thursday, Amazon Day allows users of the online sales giant to choose one day a week that works best for them to have their packages delivered.
They can still choose to have anything they buy come more quickly, but their designated delivery day will always be one of the delivery options. They can also change their delivery day to another day that works better for them.
Amazon Day is part of the company’s sustainability initiative to help achieve Shipment Zero, its vision to make all Amazon shipments net zero carbon, with 50% of all shipments net zero by 2030.
Amazon touts the program as offering convenience and predictability for Prime members and being environmentally friendly because it reduces the number of boxes used.
People who study the environmental effects of transportation love it because it could reduce the number of miles driven.
While it’s not possible to do an apples-to-apples comparison of driving to the store versus buying from Amazon, some generalizations are possible, said Miguel Jaller, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California at Davis.
A city dweller who hops in their car to go shopping travels on average 8 miles to do so, while suburban shoppers average about 25 miles, said Jaller.
Amazon doesn’t release mileage numbers for its deliveries, but based on UPS and FedEx numbers, Jaller has done some modeling. He believes home deliveries likely mean about two to three miles driven per package. That’s a very back-of-the-envelope calculation based on the most routes averaging about 100 miles and making about 35 stops, he cautions.
Consolidating deliveries to a single day could reduce the number of miles driven per package to as little as one-third of a mile, he said.
Of course, the devil is in the details. When most people drive to a store or a mall, they don’t buy just one item, they buy multiple things and carry them all home together. Whereas when they buy from Amazon or other online sites they tend to buy just one or two things at a time.
There’s also the problem of the double-whammy of people driving to stores to actually look at and touch items, then buying them online for home delivery.
“For this to be beneficial, we have to substitute our shopping trips, not double them,” said Jaller said.
Overall, the reasons the new delivery system might appeal to Amazon and its customers are not necessarily the same.
There’s an incentive for Amazon to combine deliveries because most analysts believe it currently loses money on shipping in many cases. Delivering things together would cut into those losses.
A win-win for both is that it reduces the amount of packaging necessary because items can be boxed together.
The Amazon Day beta test program “has already reduced packaging by tens of thousands of boxes — a number that will only continue to grow now that the program is available to Prime members nationwide,” said Maria Renz, vice president of delivery experience at Amazon.
The question is whether the one-day-a-week delivery will hold enough appeal that lots of customers will sign on, reaping environmental benefits for the country as a whole.
“How do we tame that appetite for this convenience?” in the words of Susan Shaheen, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. She co-directs the Transportation Sustainability Research Center there.
So far Amazon isn’t offering any incentives or discounts for using the once-a-week service. But there are still good reasons people would want to switch. One is only needing to be at home one day a week to get their deliveries — potentially decreasing the growing problem of package theft.
Shaheen, an Amazon customer herself, says One Day makes it easier to address some of the environmental concerns raised by online shopping.
“That includes climate, energy use and it comes on a day when you know when you’re going to be home,” she said.”
“It’s a clear co-benefit,” she said.
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