Posted by Sonya on March 18, 2011
It’s so easy nowadays- just point, click and buy. Depending on where you bought from and the availability, you could have your item delivered to your house in about a week. Sounds easy, simple and energy free, right? Well, sort of. While you didn’t necessarily power up your car and drive from store to store scavenging for the perfect item, a lot of fuel energy was probably used in your delivery. So, if an item is being delivered to you what is the best method and why?
Fossil Fuels: What & How
We use biologically-based fossil fuels to power most of our locomotive machineries. Fossil fuels are naturally made from the anaerobic decomposition of dead animals. In fact, the ones we use today are typically millions of years old (some fossils exceeding 650 million)! When animals and plants decompose, they release carbon into the atmosphere at an incredibly slow rate. However, when fossil fuels are burned in order to make fuel energy, the carbon from the decomposing organisms are released at a much higher rate. So, the amount of carbon that should have been released over the span of tens of millions of years is ultimately released in the span of a few hundred years. This extreme release of carbon as carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gasses drives the greenhouse effect responsible for climate change. While it would be difficult to regress back to environmentally “healthy” shipping options such as horse and buggy, it is important, as a consumer, to know your different shipping options and their individual impact on our fragile environment.
Up in the Air
Airplane rides are not just for that family vacation anymore. Tons of cargo is being shipped world-wide everyday with the help of these mechanical birds. Unfortunately, planes require a lot of fuel to keep them up in the air. Plane fuel consumption depends on the size and weight of the aircraft as well the altitude and duration of the flight. When you consider all these factors, a plane that flies internationally, such as the Boeing 747, may burn approximately one gallon of fuel every second. These fuels used to power the plane are responsible for the plane’s CO2 emissions. Researchers now believe that in 2025, aviation CO2 emission could reach 1.5 billion tons!* While planes are very helpful in facilitating world-wide commerce and trade, shipping a gift by plane for your Aunt Susan two states over may not be the most eco-friendly option.
Choo Choo’s and CO2’s
Depending on where you live, you may not see a train very often. However, these railroad bound locomotives are still actively used in the movement of cargo and goods. Train fuel consumption is based on the train’s maximum speed and stopping patterns. A higher speed is directly related to more fuel usage. Also, a greater number of stops a train has along the way are also directly related to more fuel usage. This is because there is a greater input of fuel to get the initial motion of the train. Train transportation is considered to be one of the more efficient ways of shipping. On average, a train emits only .1 kg of CO2 per ton mile compared to the .81 kg of CO2 per ton mile of air cargo emissions.**
Trucking along the USA
Even though most trucks use diesel, they are not exempt from the growing number of harmful CO2 emissions into our environment. Vehicle transportation in general constituted about 27% of the United States total greenhouse gas emissions in 2005.*** Between 1990 and 2003, CO2 emissions increased by 20%, despite the many automotive improvements to increase fuel efficiency and decrease CO2 emissions.**** However, trucks emit less CO2 than cars per pound of vehicle mass. Trucks are also considered a better shipping alternative to airplanes emitting fewer CO2 per ton mile.
The Educated Consumer
As climate change becomes more and more evident, it is up to us to take an active role in decreasing CO2 emissions and eliminating our individual carbon footprints. With this important role in mind, Arbor Teas offers the Earth Friendlier Parcel Post Shipping option. Parcel Post shipping through UPS is a ground shipping option that eliminates air travel (making it a greener option) and is available in the lower 48 states. While this shipping option may delay the arrival of your order of delicious organic tea by about a week, this shipping option greatly reduces shipping fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. With Earth Friendlier Parcel Post Shipping, you can sip your tea in confidence knowing that you selected a greener option in its delivery.
* "Airline Emissions: Even Worse Than You Think", Wired, http://www.wired.com/autopia/2008/05/airline-emissio/
** "Transport and the Environment", Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_and_the_environment#Rail
*** "Truck: Environmental Effects", Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truck#Environmental_effects
**** "Truck: Environmental Effects", Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truck#Environmental_effects
As you know, we learned that by delivering our teas in our new paperboard canisters (instead of our previous steel containers), we cut the carbon footprint of tea delivery by approximately 80%. We're very excited about this, but, of course, it's only one piece of the story. We also learned that, pound-for-pound, the energy required to brew the [...]