Tribal Art - Saving the Planet online

Whether or not you believe in man-made global warming – personally, I am an agnostic - it turns out that you may be reducing your impact on the planet by purchasing items online instead of in-person.

The Carnegie Mellon Green Design Institute put together a study that purports to prove that e-commerce not only uses less energy but also reduces the carbon footprint of retailing by one-third vs. bricks-and-mortar retailing.

The team, led by H. Scott Matthews, compared energy consumption and CO2 emissions required to deliver a small thumb drive to a customer via a shopping trip to a store vs. buying and shipping from an online site.

According to the study, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, the highest environmental cost of traditional shopping is the drive by car to the store. (This was based on an estimate of an average shopping round-trip being 14 miles, with three different items purchased on a trip.)

But what about the environmental cost of delivery to you home? The researchers determined that the “last-mile” cost of delivering a package as part of a UPS delivery truck’s trip - in which numerous packages are delivered to different addresses – requires significantly less energy per package.

Okay, what about the cost of data centers and computers? Well, it turns out that, on average the incremental costs of running data centers and computers, beyond the energy costs that are incurred by businesses tracking inventory and consumers using computers for other tasks, is insignificant.

To be fair, the extra packaging to ship safely adds mare cost than carrying an item home in shopping bag. In addition, using air mail or personalized express shipping options can increase the impact on the environment. On the other hand, using the postal service3 to ship has almost no incremental cost since the time and resources are already being used for normal mail delivery.

There is one way the traditional retailing has less impact on the environment than e-commerce; if you walk to the store. Of course, that seldom applies to shopping for tribal art since so few of us live down he stet from a tribal art gallery.

While we are on the subject of tribal art, let’s reflect on its benign environmental impact.

Very little if any non-renewable energy is used in the making of tribal art. True, some Native American carvers use electrically-driven carving tools. But then they start with natural materials, stone, wood, semi-precious gems, silver, gold and clay with very little energy expended in manufacturing and very little wasted material.

For example, Native American potters create their works the traditional way. They mine the clay by hand. They form it by hand. They fire in pits using wood. They polish by hand with smoothing stones.

Finally, buying tribal art supports a process and practice that has been place for generations, and the artists who were among the first to recognize the importance of honoring Mother Earth.

This report is brought to you by Susanne and William Waites, proprietors of Aboriginals: Art of the First Person, with Web sites at, featuring Zuni and other Native American carvings;, featuring the finest in Native American Indian jewelry; Native-PotteryLink, featuring handmade Indian pottery from Native Pueblos; and, combining triabl art from African, Australian Aboriginal art, Arctic art and Navajo folk art.

We are gratified to be able to bring this outstanding tribal work to your attention, on behalf of the artists (and the planet).