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What is the real impact of online shopping to the env't?

Posted: 24 Dec 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:online shopping? Christmas? holiday? ICT? consumption?

B?rjesson and Svenfelt will take the material they get in these interviews, and try to place it in possible scenarios for the future, in order to see which second-order effects on the environment (indirect environmental effects) are associated with the different ways people consume.

The idea is that these indirect effects will eventually be taken into account in the evaluation of IT products and IT services environment. Today, only the direct environmental effects, such as waste or how much energy a product draws, are usually taken into account in such evaluations.

Taking aim at these indirect effects is considered a more innovative approach, which provides more comprehensive assessments when a new technology, product or service is developed.

"Second-order effects on the environment are like ripples in the water. They spread in the system, often because people use things in a certain way that you might not think about when designing a product or service," says Svenfelt, who analyses possible future social practices and how they can be worked into the scenarios.

IT and ICT are generally regarded as promising areas for improved sustainability. Online meetings and shopping are thought be potential energy savers. "But then one thinks only of these direct effects and not the second order effects on the environment," Svenfelt says. "It may seem like a good idea to introduce a service to save energy. But second-order effects may show that the way the service is used might actually counteract the whole purpose."

 Miriam B?rjesson Rivera

A key concept in Miriam B?rjesson Rivera's research is social practices.

Take ordering groceries via the internet, for example, she says. It is argued that this reduces transport, because people are not driving around themselves. "But if you live in the inner city, online grocery orders lead to increased traffic because it adds to the number of distribution vehicles driving to people inside the citypeople who might live only 100m to the nearest food store.

"In that case, perhaps it would have been better if you had not ordered food online, but gone and shopped at the store yourself."

Speaking of trade and that the holidays are here, what do Svenfelt and B?rjesson Rivera wish for Christmas?

"For myself, I have wished for gift cards for breakfast in bed from my children. But if I get a wish in a larger perspective, it is that we all reflect little more on what we buy each other as Christmas presents and why. In this way, we may be able to buy goods and services with less environmental impact and sometimes perhaps avoid consumption altogether," Svenfelt says.

"I wish for a nice time off with my family and that everyone stays healthy," B?rjesson Rivera says.

The project, Methods for Sustainability Assessments of ICT, continues until June 2015th

- H?kan Soold

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