Decarbonising the "Last Mile": Leveraging Social Media and Mobile ICT to Mitigate the Carbon Footprint of Online Shopping

Principal Investigator(s):

Saifallah Benjaafar, Former Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering


  • Timothy Smith, Associate Professor, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering
  • Kyo Suh, Former Research Fellow, College of Design

Project summary:

An increasing number of people are managing their social networks on mobile information and communication technology (ICT) platforms. This project materialized these social relationships by leveraging spatial and networked information for sharing excess capacity to reduce the environmental impact associated with "last-mile" package delivery systems from online purchases, particularly in low population-density settings. Alternative package pickup location systems (PLS), such as a kiosk on a public transit platform or in a grocery store, have been suggested as effective strategies for reducing package travel miles and greenhouse gas emissions compared to current door-to-door delivery models (CDS). However, these research results suggest that a pickup location delivery system operating in a suburban setting may actually increase travel miles and emissions. Only once a social network is employed to assist in package pickup (SPLS) are significant reductions in the last-mile delivery distance and carbon emissions observed across both urban and suburban settings. Implications for logistics management's decades-long focus on improving efficiencies of dedicated distribution systems through specialization, as well as for public policy targeting carbon emissions of the transport sector, were also investigated.

Project details: