Made In The U.S.A.

Coffee and ecology

In Adventures on March 1, 2009 at 12:09 am

This isn’t your regular report about coffee and the environment and how buying responsibly involves organic and fair trade and that sort of thing. It’s a broader issue I’m interested in, and it pertains to a lot of products besides coffee. Here’s what I want to know: is delivery bad for the environment.

As I sit sipping my Kaldi’s Organic Fair Trade coffee, I think about how I preferred the flavor of the last locally roasted coffee I picked up from Oregon Trail in Belleville. Kaldi’s I can get at a variety of grocery stores in the area; the Oregon Trail brew comes two ways: direct from the store on West Main in Belleville, or ordered from said store via the internet and delivered by the good ol’ US Postal Service. Or Fedex. Or the brown guys. Probably not DHL, though. They’re done.

In lieu of ordering the Mexican brew I enjoyed from Oregon Trail, I figured it would be better for me to wait until I’m in the area again and swing by for a pound of beans. The smarter thing would probably be to buy several pounds and consolidate the delivery cost–be it my personal gasoline, time and such, or that and the dollars I’d pay to a delivery company to do it. I don’t particularly want to make a special trip across the river to pick up coffee, but I certainly could. It wouldn’t be out of the question, and it probably wouldn’t ruin my day. And it’d be better than ordering and delivering, right?

Well, maybe not. Turns out delivery might actually be the more responsible environmental approach in this case. I’m never going to be “near” the Oregon Trail coffee shop, or certainly not that I know of, any time soon. But Fedex and UPS and the Post Office are near there all the time. And they’re near my house all the time. Why not have them pick it up for me?

Much like buses and trains are more efficient people movers because a single vehicle moves a quantity of bodies, doesn’t the same apply to Fedex delivering multiple packages to my part of town? Isn’t, in this case (and many others, really) the delivery option atually the more environmentally friendly option because it’s saving one guy getting into his one car and driving 20-some miles to pick up a pound of coffee so that he can buy locally and be friendlier to a variety of things including his mother earth? Seems to me mother earth would much prefer a consolidated coffee-mover–like Fedex, UPS or the Post Office?

So it’s a bit of a revelation today. Buying local can be made more environmentally friendly by utilizing the Internet and a megacorporate or government run delivery service.

Just don’t order your beans special delivery from France. That’s a little excessive, and probably not good for anybody.

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