OPINION | Exuberant online shopping is harmful

Luca Hoedeman, Contributing Writer

Photo of an opened Amazon package on the ground.
Environmental waste is just one of the harmful effects of excessive Amazon shipments to Tulane’s campus. (Jada Roth)

At the start of every school year, the Tulane University Mail Service teems with activity. Freshman and their parents scramble to pick up their last minute necessities. Trucks full of Amazon and Fedex orders come and go. It all seems so convenient and efficient. If a student needs something, they can easily order a product on the internet and have it delivered to campus in a matter of days. However, there is a cost attached to this luxury.

Excessive shipping poses significant environmental impacts. When a student elects to buy an item on Amazon walking to a nearby store, the environment is affected negatively. Extra packaging is needed for each item, which  becomes paper or plastic waste. Given that many packages are shipped to their destination in a day or two, the shipping itself has a higher environmental impact than if the items were purchased at a store.

One may argue, “What’s the harm in ordering the toothbrush I forgot to pack?” While this is true to an extent, many Tulane students end up sending themselves a cascade of packages, ordering items the instant they realize what is forgotten. This leads to added waste and emissions, along with adding undue stress on Tulane’s Mail Services. 

Tulane Mail Services employees work hard year-round to make sure mail is quickly processed and ready for student pick-up. The over-ordering at fall move-in makes their crucial role even more challenging. Mail Services is responsible for safely and quickly processing packages with medication for chronic illness, important legal documents, and more. When students wastefully order from the internet and overload Mail Services, more of these important deliveries are bound to fall through the cracks.

Both environmental impacts and logistical concerns of obtaining staple items can be resolved  if students take a short walk to one of the many grocery or convenience stores nearby. Both national chains and local grocery stores can be reached by streetcar. Tulane’s own Provisions on the 13th Promenade, the on-campus store, is another viable and convenient option for Tulane students looking to reduce the burden on Tulane Mail Services. These nearby alternatives to Amazon can be used to avoid ordering smaller items like snacks or toiletries.

Tulane has made racial equity and social justice a point of public emphasis with new training for staff and committed to holistic plans. Students leaning heavily on Amazon Prime undercuts these university-wide efforts, as research indicates Amazon’s activities place more negative environmental externalities on BIPOC communities. Many students come to Tulane to make a difference, and with the little sacrifices, like making small purchases at nearby stores instead of online, students can begin to actualize the change they want to see.

Ultimately, the most compelling reason to reduce your Amazon Prime orders is the effect it has on fellow students at Tulane. It is often Tulane students working in the university mail room organizing packages. It is your fellow Tulanians whose important packages you may delay. Tulane’s well-publicized motto, “Not for oneself, but for one’s own,” champions the student who sacrifices to make their community a better place. Cutting back on last minute Amazon orders is just the kind of small concession a Tulane student can make to fulfill the university’s mission.