It’s not your fault: Your choices matter, but slowing climate change is not up to you. Companies want you to buy without thinking about your wallet, your carbon footprint or anything else.
Something hopeful: A Mexico shopping website found that the vast majority of people were willing to wait for their orders when told it would save a number of trees.
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Here’s a North Star to guide you toward planet-friendly shopping: a choice that involves the fewest miles traveled to your doorstep is usually better for the environment. It can be buying online or in a store, or even better, not buying anything at all.
Understanding this is tricky and depends on your personal situation.
According to Anne Goodchild, a University of Washington professor who studies climate emissions from transportation.
But it is not that simple.
Goodchild told me that if you buy some of the items on your weekly grocery list online and still go to the supermarket for the rest, those two shopping moments could produce more climate-damaging emissions than a single delivery or drive. If you ordered a new blender for delivery instead of buying one on the way home from work, it could be worse for the environment.
Other factors such as the type of car you drive, where your products come from, and whether your neighborhood is large or has many houses close together also affect the climate emissions produced. I know it feels tiring. I don’t blame you if you just want to buy dog food and not think too much.
But you don’t have to be perfect or lower your personal CO2 emissions to shop online and be a little kinder to the planet. Here’s what you can do:
Slower delivery is good. Buying less is even better.
Websites often don’t give you the option, but when they do, Goodchild advised opting for delivery times that take several days rather than one or two. Amazon brought the need for speed to your doorstep, and many other websites followed.
(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Fast shipping at no extra cost is now what you expect, but it comes at a cost. Slower delivery times allow delivery companies to consolidate orders, ship goods by truck instead of planes, and send vans full of packages on routes that use less gas. It’s more durable.
If you think, hahahahahaha, everyone wants things NOW… When a Mexican retailer showed shoppers a message about how many trees their choice could save, 90 percent of people said they were ready to wait about five days, the MIT researchers explained. It was a small experiment, but one that showed people can be keen on protecting the planet if it seems manageable.
Companies will often choose the fastest delivery for you, but sometimes you can upgrade to a slower delivery at checkout.
Here are two examples from earlier this week on Amazon and Best Buy. Companies have automatically chosen the fastest delivery window, but you can instead click the option to wait a little longer.
Goodchild’s second recommendation is hard medicine: the greenest buying choice is to buy nothing at all. You don’t have to give up all your possessions or anything. It’s about being more thoughtful and asking yourself: do I need this?
One suggestion I heard was to try waiting 24 hours before clicking “buy”. Maybe that gadget you put in your virtual shopping cart while you were bored on Thanksgiving won’t sound so exciting if you’ve waited until today to check it out.
Businesses (and your life) are working against you.
Frankly speaking: our way of life is not conducive to slowing down climate change. You may want or need to travel long distances for work, school, or life. Electric cars are expensive to buy. We need things, and buying things in the most convenient way possible – of course we want that.
Shopping online can also undermine your best intentions for your budget and the planet. It’s so easy to buy and return, it’s hard to know what or how you’re buying. And it’s better for online stores if you turn off your brain.
We can adapt. And you are part of the picture, but the responsibility for change is not yours alone. Real fixes will require changes on a global scale and a recognition that we need to work together.
“We know we have a major problem with [carbon dioxide] production that will require all our efforts to remedy. It’s going to take personal responsibility, corporate responsibility, public policy,” Goodchild said. “And it’s still going to be difficult.”
And don’t miss this: Geoffrey A. Fowler shows you how ads have taken over Amazon and made shopping worse.
No, Twitter is not dying. (Still.)
Yes, I see you asking this question. I understand! Here are some things you might want to know:
The drama of Elon Musk’s property is seductive: musk recently said that Twitter usage has reached record highs, perhaps in part because of people gravitating around Twitter to dwell on the Twitter chaos. (Musk’s claims about Twitter use are hard to verify.)
A majority of Twitter staff were expelled or resigned over the past few weeks. Won’t Twitter break?
Great websites tend to be resilient, until they’re not. Sources told The Post that complex systems like Twitter’s can withstand minor glitches without users necessarily noticing. Glitches or temporary outages are not necessarily signs of bad luck. Over time, if technical errors and changes accumulate and there aren’t enough people working on them, a lasting crash is possible.
But look at this horrible tweet! Some people seemed emboldened to spit toxic messages on Twitter after Musk took over, and some users and advertisers pulled out, at least temporarily. But Musk’s ownership is energizing for others, and the impact on Twitter’s user count and revenue could take a long time to figure out.
Ugly words, sloppy policies and recalcitrant features were also Twitter staples before Musk was boss. It’s hard to know if something you find despicable or stupid on Twitter is related to Musk’s takeover or if Twitter is just Twitter.
If you’re worried about Twitter, where can you go? Nothing is a perfect replacement, really. My colleague Heather Kelly wrote about the pros and cons of Twitter alternatives and what you might want to do if you have a Twitter account.
If you’ve heard of new Twitter-like apps like Hive, Mastodon, and Post.News, they’re probably not ready for most people right now. We here at The Post (er, it’s The Washington Post) will continue to test them for you.
Follow the money. Twitter borrowed $13 billion for Musk’s takeover of the company. And the company owes about $1 billion or more a year just on the interest on that debt. To buy Twitter, Musk also invested what was initially $25 billion of his own money, although it’s possible he brought in more investors to spread the load.
The bottom line: Twitter and Musk need a lot more money, a lot less spending, or both. What we’re seeing from Musk and company is a mad rush to make the math of Twitter work.
Help us help you. What do you want to know about Twitter? Do you feel overwhelmed by So. Many. Comments. on travel sites? Ask us your questions about the technology in your life, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are all in the same boat.
If you’re in the US and love football but don’t have cable TV or a fancy streaming package, my colleague Tatum Hunter has zeroed in on a low-cost viewing tip for the Cup of the world :
Telemundo, the Spanish-language television channel, broadcasts World Cup matches live on the Peacock streaming service. Earlier this week it was free to watch games, but now you have to shell out for a Peacock subscription. (Peacock has offered a 99-cent-a-month subscription for a year, with some restrictions.)
In many parts of the United States, you can also watch Telemundo World Cup matches for free on real tv, if you do that. You might need an antenna.
If my boss asks, I was broadcasting a game while I was writing this – FOR JOURNALISM.
Brag about YOUR small victory! Tell us about an app, gadget, or tech tip that made your day a little better. We may feature your tips in a future edition of The Tech Friend.
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