Is Shopping Online Eco-Friendly?

In part, thanks to the pandemic, America’s shopping habits have moved online and we’re buying twice as much stuff on the internet as we were back in 2018. 

But is this good news for the environment and should we be concerned about this transition and the impact on the future of the planet?


A Simple Claim In Favor Of Online Shopping

We’re big fans of online shopping as you can see from our favorite online clothing stores, internet-based furniture stores and even art stores

So, we really wanted to learn that online shopping was better for the environment and according to the Fashion Footprint Calculator from ThredUp it is!

They say that by shopping online you can reduce the carbon footprint of your shopping by 60% and that most of the negative environmental impact of retail operations comes from the fact that customers drive to the store. 

So, case closed, right? We can shop away and feel great about it, right?


A More Complicated Reality

Sadly, it’s not that simple. 

If you buy a lot of stuff online, say a month’s worth of groceries in one go, then you’re definitely doing the planet a favor by doing so. 

Your shop gets loaded in a van with many others and then it uses far fewer gas miles to get to your home than if you’d fetched it yourself.

parcel delivery truck

But if we’re shopping for endless small items that come with free delivery?

Then it’s not so clear cut.

Then you’re going to be bringing a lot of vehicles to your home when previously there’d have been a single trip to the shops.


Packaging Problems

And while emission content may be lower for online shopping in bulk, both forms of online shopping tend to lead to a lot more packaging being used.

And much of that packaging ends up being thrown away which is not good for the planet at all. 


Rotten Rapid Delivery

And then there’s the problem of “rapid delivery” options. 

Ordinary delivery options are super-efficient and truly reduce your carbon footprint but rapid delivery? 


Returns Aren’t Great

That’s horrifically inefficient and estimates are that it results in three times as much carbon emissions as you’d generate if you went to the store yourself. 

Online returns are also a problem – while a traditional store restocks most of what it takes back in (unless it’s broken or unfit for sale) online retailers barely restock 1 in 2 of consumer returns.

Worse, 25% of the stuff that isn’t restocked is then dumped in landfill. 


What’s The Solution?

Good question. 

One thing that seems to work in Sweden is using a customer drop off point for deliveries that clients pick up from, this tends to reduce car journeys and delivery journeys. 

And more legislation to compel online businesses to act in a more ethical and eco-friendly affair would be a good idea too. 

And we as consumers can order less often, in larger quantities and opt for efficient rather than rapid delivery to play our part too. 


Final Thoughts On Is Shopping Online Eco-Friendly?

So, shopping online isn’t as eco-friendly as you might first think but it could be, if we all worked together – business, government and consumer – to make it so. 

With the ever growing interest in environmentally friendly options, we’re positive that the future will be better than today in this respect. 

One comment

  1. I purchase things online that are not typically found in stores, but not so much of that either,
    When it comes to clothing, I am one of those people who can take 10 things into the dressing room & not find one thing among them that is just right.

    I read yesterday about the brick & mortar stores that are closing. I can’t speak for every woman as many of them have gone along with the shredded jeans, even up to paying a small fortune for them.
    Other crazy styles are not appealing but not near as bad as the disgusting, IMHO, shredded jeans.

    I feel like the clothing stores are not working for a few reasons. The jeans are just one of them. The prices are outrageous yet the stores have way fewer clerks, and even if you point out that a lot of clothes are on the floor, being walked on, only a few are even picked up. I raised a family buying from that chain & it definitely was not like that then.
    I realize inflation has increased prices but there comes the time when one is either not buying at all or using what they have to buy urgently needed items only.
    I simply cannot depend on what is sold online if I can’t even find suitable things in the stores. But I want to look good in my clothes, & I just don’t find things appealing enough to even take into the dressing room to try them on.
    Add to that, closing early & that reduces sales all by itself.
    One more thing. If corps think they are appealing to the crowd by spewing “woke” stances, they aren’t thinking of people with backbone enough to just cross them off the list, even favorite stores. Before the term was used, I have given up several favorites, some for as much as five years & counting. I even gave up a store because they would not backdown on a sofa that had not even been delivered yet to a friend of mine. I was with her when she went in to try and stop the sale. After 5 years when the friendship ended, then and only then, did I resume shopping there.
    It has nothing to do with my ability to purchase because it has been that way through good times & bad. The stores were never told. That wasn’t important. It’s my own way of living what I believe, whether they come to know or not.

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