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We Tried Combining Amazon Deliveries with ‘Amazon Day’ Shipping. Often, It Didn’t Work.

We Tried Combining Amazon Deliveries with ‘Amazon Day’ Shipping. Often, It Didn’t Work.
We Tried Combining Amazon Deliveries with ‘Amazon Day’ Shipping. Often, It Didn’t Work.
July 6, 2023   //   

By Kaveh Waddell

If you’re an Amazon Prime member and you buy several items at once, you can usually ask to have everything delivered together.

The “Amazon Day” shipping option lets you schedule packages to arrive at a convenient time, like a weekend day when you know you’ll be home. Amazon says it’s better for the environment, too, because it reduces delivery trips and packaging materials.

But Amazon didn’t deliver on that promise more than 20 percent of the time in a recent Consumer Reports experiment that involved over 200 volunteers. When Amazon Day shipping didn’t work, the packages usually arrived on two separate days—but in some cases, items came in three separate deliveries or even more.

“I have tried my best with Amazon to make it one shipment, one delivery, to no avail,” says Kim Perry, a retired nurse who lives in a suburb near Durham, N.C., and orders from Amazon about once a month. “I have not ordered anything with three or more items that has come in one shipment.”

Extra delivery trips contribute to the enormous amount of pollution generated by delivery traffic. E-commerce deliveries in the U.S. emit about 4.1 million metric tons of CO₂ a year, according to an estimate from, an environmental organization. Environmental Protection Agency figures indicate that’s about equivalent to emissions from the electricity needed to power 800,000 homes.

Delivery traffic contributes to other problems, too. Heavy vehicles like delivery trucks and vans generate large amounts of air pollution, such as microscopic particulate matter that can sicken people who live near delivery facilities and truck routes.

In one small Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood with two big Amazon warehouses, the main street now backs up with more than 100 trucks and vans per hour during the morning rush, a recent CR investigation found. The pollution, noise, and congestion add to environmental burdens already facing local families, including lasting damage from Hurricane Sandy and unhealthy conditions in the New York City borough’s largest public housing complex.

Like those Brooklyn facilities, many other Amazon warehouses are also in urban areas, mostly in neighborhoods with a higher-than-average share of residents of color, and people with low incomes, CR has found.

These warehouses help Amazon get deliveries to city dwellers quickly. But it turns out that a large majority of Amazon shoppers would be happy to give up speedy shipping if a slower option were better for the environment or people’s health, CR found in a nationally representative survey of 2,097 U.S. adults conducted in February.

More than 80 percent of Americans who order from Amazon say they’d be willing to choose a slower delivery option if it cut back on carbon emissions, or if it reduced local air pollution in residential neighborhoods near Amazon warehouses.

Many people say they’d wait an extra day or two for their packages, and some were in even less of a rush. More than 22 percent of Amazon customers say they’d wait five or more days for environmentally friendly deliveries.

“This suggests there is an unmet demand for sustainable alternatives,” says Anne Goodchild, who directs the Urban Freight Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle and was not involved in CR’s survey.

Amazon has considered more sustainable shipping options in the past but decided against rolling them out, Bloomberg reported in 2020. The company nixed an internal proposal for a slower green shipping option, Bloomberg reported, for fear that it would reduce customer orders.

Shipping products with less urgency can cut down on environmental harms from e-commerce, Goodchild says. If companies don’t send out each order as quickly as possible, they can plan more efficient routes, fill delivery vans entirely, and dispatch fewer, larger vehicles.

CR asked Amazon to respond to the results of our shipping experiment. Saige Kolpack, an Amazon spokesperson, says the company is “focused on improving the sustainability of every delivery,” adding that “there are multiple ways shipping options can reduce average carbon emissions to deliver products to customers, such as fewer trips or being shipped from a nearby location.”

Amazon says it will also lessen its delivery emissions by electrifying a chunk of its delivery fleet. It plans to deploy 100,000 electric delivery vans nationwide by 2030—as of now, there are around 5,000 on the road.

Electrifying delivery vans can reduce particulate emissions, but it won’t eliminate them. Regardless of whether they’re electric, diesel, or gasoline, all vehicles generate non-exhaust particulate pollution through brake dust, tire dust, and road dust. Large delivery vans and trucks are particularly prone to generating this type of pollution—and electric vehicles can be even heavier because of their massive batteries.

Botched Deliveries, Wasteful Packaging
Earlier this year, more than 800 Amazon Prime subscribers volunteered to bundle their next multi-item order using Amazon Day and report back to CR once the order arrived. The project was part of a series of participatory experiments called Community Reports. (The volunteers weren’t necessarily representative of Amazon’s customers nationwide.)

We excluded orders that contained items shipped by third-party sellers, which aren’t eligible for Amazon Day, and ended up analyzing orders from more than 200 volunteers with multiple items that were all sold by Amazon. (There are a few other restrictions that could make an order ineligible for Amazon Day shipping, too, like deliveries to P.O. boxes or Amazon Locker pickup locations.)

Perry, the retired nurse in North Carolina, says she chooses Amazon Day shipments both for the promise of convenience and environmental benefit. For most orders, she says she’d wait a week or longer for delivery, if that were an option.

In late February, Perry put in a grab-bag Amazon order: clothes, a dog toy, landscaping tools, and some other household items. She chose her Amazon Day, Friday, and clicked “buy.” One box arrived when it was meant to, says Perry, but the rest of her order was delivered on two other days, making it one of the roughly 20 percent of Amazon Day orders in our experiment that weren’t delivered as promised.

“I have come to not expect it to go as planned,” Perry says.

Amazon says deliveries bundled with Amazon Day use 30 percent fewer boxes, on average, and that they saved 136 million boxes in 2022.

However, many volunteers told CR that boxes and envelopes that Amazon uses are wasteful, too.

About 1 in 4 orders included at least some packaging that wasn’t appropriate for the product being shipped, according to the volunteers. The majority of the time, volunteers said they received packages that were too big.

Linda, a participant from Pittsburgh who asked to go by her first name, got all three of her items on her Amazon Day—but they each came in a separate package. The three items would have all fit in the largest box, she says.

And when Gabrielle Callison put in her monthly order of energy bars, vitamins and cleaning supplies, they came in two big boxes on her Amazon Day. “Both boxes were too big,” she says. “They could have been half the size.”

“I have called Amazon customer service twice to let them know I do not appreciate receiving shipments in separate boxes, in boxes that are too big, but nothing has changed,” says Callison, who lives near Sacramento, Calif. “I would be much happier if I could choose a delivery date in the future where I was assured that I would get only one box.”

How to Choose ‘Green’ Delivery Options
It’s useful to have a variety of shipping options, but it shouldn’t fall entirely on consumers to lighten the environmental impact of e-commerce, experts say. “State and federal lawmakers should set strong standards to require companies like Amazon to transition their delivery fleets to zero-emission, and mitigate their impact on the environment and the communities around them,” says Dylan Jaff, a CR sustainability policy analyst.

Until that happens, here are some things you can do to limit the emissions that accompany e-commerce packages to their destinations.

Try Amazon Day shipping. The option doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s a good tool to help cut down on delivery van trips. The option is available only to Prime members, who can choose it for most items shipped by Amazon—whether or not they’re sold directly by the e-commerce giant. Some items and delivery locations aren’t eligible. Many items are also eligible for a shipping option the company describes as “delivery in fewer trips to your address,” which Amazon says it’s testing in order to encourage customers to combine their deliveries. It works like Amazon Day, except that Amazon selects the shipping day for you.

Ask to have boxes shipped in the manufacturer’s box. This avoids any additional Amazon packaging and is an option on some orders. The company says more than 10 percent of products were shipped this way in 2022.

Have items shipped to a neighborhood store or an Amazon locker. As an alternative to home delivery, customers in certain areas can choose to have their orders shipped to a counter in a nearby store or to an Amazon locker for later pickup. Experts say this option can help reduce pollution from extra delivery van trips. But not many people choose it, according to CR’s national survey: Fewer than 20 percent of Amazon customers say they sometimes or always get their packages delivered to a central pickup location near their home.

Buy local. The best way to keep polluting delivery vans off the road is to avoid unneeded online orders altogether. Consider picking up needed items at a local store while you’re already out on errands, and look for options with minimal packaging.

Fix, don’t replace. You can also avoid shopping for new things and save money by fixing your broken items. CR policy advocates are pushing for laws that will make it easier for you to get the instructions and parts you need to make thrifty repairs. In the meanwhile CR has some tips for repairing cars, and large appliances like refrigerators or washing machines. And sites like iFixit have instructions that can help you repair smaller items, including some electronics.