Be Hip and Be Square

WANTED: The reusable delivery box

Let’s face it: The internet has made it easier for lazy people to be even lazier. Rather than going to the supermarket and shlepping home groceries, I can order all the goodies I want from the comfort of my home without having to contend with rogue grannies driving their shopping carts like NASCAR drivers and glacially slow check-out people. Gratification comes a few days later when the delivery arrives, boxes upon boxes; and even though it’s just cartons of milk or zucchini, the act of unwrapping feels a little bit like Christmas, especially when you realize that you indeed ordered that very nice (and frivolously overpriced) piece of cheese.

Once everything has been moved to the fridge and the oh-so-tight storage space, environmental guilt sets in, looking at the pile of empty boxes sitting in the hallway, waiting to be collapsed, tied together and brought to the recycling room. Week after week, that’s a lot of boxes, even if they are made of recycled material. Since many customers of Fresh Direct,, Amazon and other online vendors are serial perpetrators, wouldn’t it make sense to have two or three standardized boxes that could be reused? Customers would pay a small deposit fee and would get the deposit back at the next delivery, when they return the boxes to the delivery person. Of course, the boxes would have to be collapsible (hello? New York City apartment?), and you shouldn’t have to tape them together. Luckily, German moving box technology has developed boxes that hold together just by being folded (no engineering degree necessary). And even if you just use the box twice, you already reduced garbage by half!

Some moving companies, meanwhile, have started offering reusable plastic bins.

This is only one way (and perhaps one of the easiest to institute) of making local deliveries, which will probably increase as more and more stuff becomes available online, more environmentally friendly. Another starts with cleaner delivery vehicles such as this hybrid delivery truck. Some online retailers have “eco friendly” delivery times where the group deliveries to a particular neighborhood. But why stop there? Every morning I pass by my local supermarket, and there are three or four trucks blocking the street – couldn’t it all be in one truck? Local delivery should be an issue for planners beyond parking rules and loading dock requirements; we should look at vehicles, warehouses, routes, logistics and everything in between.

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