Greening the Internet:


Ten ways by which e-Commerce could affect the environment


What we individuals can do about it



[Inspired by Nevin Cohen (]



1.0 "Mass customization" for eco-efficiency

   1.1 Just in time

   1.2 Just enough

   1.3 Just for you


2.0 Marketing by pixels instead of brochures, magazines and packages


3.0 Dematerialization of products

   3.1 From books to bytes

   3.2 From CDs to MP3s

   3.3 From snapshots to JPEGs

   3.4 From checks to clicks


4.0 The “de-malling” of suburbs


5.0 Let your modem do the driving


6.0 Closing the loop on-line


7.0 (obsolete now)


8.0 Materials reuse through on-line auctions


9.0 Adding information to products for environmental efficiency


10. Global e-commerce






What can consumers and manufacturers do?


An e-commerce code of management practices could address the potential environmental impacts by committing companies to the following ten steps:


1. Using the most energy-efficient product delivery systems.


2. Encouraging shippers to use alternative fuels.


3. Moving toward more environmentally sound packaging designs (e.g., lighter and thinner packaging; reusable packaging; packaging that contains fewer materials or more recycled materials; packaging that contains fewer dyes and inks).


4. Designing products that are efficient to ship (e.g., concentrates).


5. Encouraging electronic payment of bills and putting manuals and forms on-line.


6. Investigating the environmental impacts of on-line options to expanding existing stores or building new bricks-and-mortar facilities.


7. Working with package delivery companies to institute packaging and product take-back programs.


8. Developing a consistent set of product descriptors that define the environmental characteristics of products sold on-line, so that consumers can scan for qualities like energy efficiency and chemical composition.


9. Developing an international code of practices to prevent the illegal trade in hazardous substances, banned products, or pharmaceuticals.


10. Tracking and reporting the environmental impacts of e-commerce. This task could be assigned to managers responsible for supply-chain logistics and product and packaging design. Given the enormous potential consequences of e-commerce, annual environmental reports might be an appropriate forum for discussing these impacts.