By Sister Rose Marie Tresp 

In the last decade, particularly during and since the pandemic, online shopping and home deliveries have surged. The main environmental problem of these deliveries comes from the last mile, the last step in the journey of a package to the customer’s home.  

The surge in online ordering has led to more traffic congestion, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and increased packaging waste. The World Economic Forum predicts that in the world’s largest cities emissions from delivery traffic and traffic congestion will continue to increase. Urbanization, increased middle class purchasing power, the ease of online ordering and increased expectations of consumers for rapid delivery have caused damage to Earth and a decreased quality of life with increased traffic, congestion and air pollution.   

Solving this problem will require significant regulatory and infrastructure changes on the societal level. Individuals and families, however, can begin to examine their own complicity in this damage to the environment. While home delivery has been a boon to those persons who are shut-ins, live in rural areas, or do not have easy access to cars or public transportation, everyone can analyze their own ability to decrease their use of home delivery.  

Here are some suggestions to decrease your reliance on home deliveries: 

  • Combine purchases to order less frequently.  
  • Order items online but have the store hold them for pickup. 
  • Examine your own consumerism and impulse purchasing.  

In “Laudato Deum” Pope Francis states: “If we consider that emissions per individual in the United States are about two times greater than those of individuals living in China, and about seven times greater than the average of the poorest countries, we can state that a broad change in the irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model would have a significant long-term impact. As a result, along with indispensable political decisions, we would be making progress along the way to genuine care for one another.”  Laudato Deum, #72