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Shopping has become a very secret and mysterious affair.Conspicuous consumption does not look good during a recession,which explains why so many of us are embracing e-commerce.Online shopping on these shores is projected to grow from sales of 8.9bn to around 21.3bn by the end next year.
Often people proclaim they've embraced e-commerce because it's "green".This is understandable.If many shopping bags in a recession look bad,bricks and mortar retail-huge out-of-town shopping centres,retail emporia （大百货店） that insist on leaving their doors open even in winter and grocery stores full of the most inefficient freezem-look terrible during an ecological emergency.
Should we buy the idea that e-commerce is any better?.Several studies have tried to answer this with cold,hard data.A 2000 study on Webvan,a US online grocer that does not exist any more,concluded that a wider adoption of ecommerce would not give us environmental gains,while a 2002 study of US bookretailing found no greater energy savings selling online.But the study that all e-retailers are talking about is a new one from Carnegie Mellon University,which has found that shopping online via Buy.corn's e-commerce model for electronic products uses 35 per cent less energy consumption and CO2 emissions than a traditional bricks-and-mortar model.
This is largely because it avoids the usual retail distribution model and,of course,the impact of cons.umers driving to a store.And,from the shopper's perspective,online buying often allows you to avoid the ephemera （便宜的日常小用品） of retail,like the 100m coat hangers that end up in landfill each year,or lengthened cash register receipts.
But both models are flawed,because online or on the high street,retailers are dependent on a hydrocarbon-fuelled delivery system.Trucks deliver 4.8m tonnes of freight each day in the UK,which works out at about 80kg per person.To make matters worse,after a truck drops off the goods it often returns empty to the storehouse.A 2002 study of 20,000 haulage trips found that only 2.4% of return journey legs found suitable backloads.This journey represents a large part of the impact of what we buy.
Online shopping may prove marginally greener in terms of energy saving,but we shouldn't forget progressive traditional retail.