How fast does shipping need to be?

I accidentally began an experiment in early 2018. My mailbox and approximately 200 others are clustered about one block down the street. I’d walk to pick up the mail most days of the week and promptly deposit most of it in the recycle bin. After a few months, I discovered that as long as I picked up the mail every 3-4 days, the mailbox was full but not overflowing. I set reminders to pick up the mail every Wednesday and Sunday. Most of it still went into the recycle bin and I had eliminated unnecessary mail days. I have never missed a bill or holiday card, nor have I ever received one of those notes from the Post Office that I have excess mail overflow. Your situation may be different, but this has been my experience.

Fast forward to February 2020. Covid-19 was new, and we were uncertain what it meant. Following guidance, I put all my Amazon and UPS packages in storage for 3 days before I would open them. This meant that an item ordered Monday and received Tuesday would remain in the box until at least Friday. Sometimes it was less convenient but the lifestyle change was not hard to make. Surprisingly, instead of visiting my Post Office box two days per week, I also found that the reduction in advertising mailers meant I only needed to pick up the mail just one day per week to avoid mailbox overflow.

To be clear, our entire family shops online frequently. We order from the Big Box stores and small business. When we are in a pinch for dinner, one of my favorite conveniences in life is planning a meal and getting fresh groceries delivered to make it right away. On the other hand, we worry about the environmental impact of ordering a book and getting it shipped across the country as fast as possible.

I’m not here to preach to you or try to convince you of my point of view. The supply chain provides jobs and boosts the economy. Online shopping is convenient and provides access to more variety. Some individuals have urgent or special needs that benefit from faster delivery. On the flip-side, our packages travel millions of miles by fast moving planes, trains, cargo ships, and trucks each year. How much global benefit could we have on our congested traffic lanes and environment if we only delivered mail every 3-4 days? This conversation is particularly relevant since the US Post Office has recently stated mail delays may be coming as part of cost cutting measures. Below are some talking points to get the conversation started.

Interested in one final finding from my unintentional experiment? As a family, we all know that Wednesday and Sunday are “mail day”. We often pick it up after dinner and spend a brief moment sorting through the mail together. It’s still mostly bills but we have a little fun with it. 

Article photo by Pope Moysuh on Unsplash

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