How Does Online Shopping Impact the Environment?

11 November 2019| Post by Robbie5 minutes


Tis’ the season to be a consumer – but how do our shopping habits affect the environment?

As we creep closer to winter’s major retail events, our online shopping habits truly come to light. As explored in one of the previous blogs, more of us each year are favouring the convenience of online shopping, and this only increases as we get closer to events like Black Friday, Christmas and Cyber Monday, where e-commerce sites are at their busiest.

As these events roll around, it will be interesting to see how the drastic increase in online shopping will integrate with this year’s most popular discourse surrounding the environment. But how exactly does the online shopping craze affect our planet?

Well, Some say it’s Greener

When you look into online shopping’s place in the whole sustainability debate, many state that online shopping is actually the best way to do it. The argument itself relatively goes back and forth, but there does seem to be a few reoccurring points that make you ponder whether online shopping leaves less of an impact on our environment than so-called ‘brick and mortar’ shopping. Let’s have a look, shall we?

  • People doing their Christmas shopping from home means fewer cars on the road, so fewer carbon emissions. Plus, thanks to multiple deliveries on the same day, it reduces the number of delivery drivers on the road.
  • Online shops negate the energy needed to keep a high street store up and running is obsolete.
  • It makes it easier to ensure that you’re shopping sustainably through detailed product descriptions
  • Bulk deliveries, as well as bulk buying, also help cars stay off the road.
  • Does not contribute to the use of plastic hangers, which is the latest object under scrutiny. Plastic clothes hangers which are predominantly used by ‘brick and mortar’ stores have been deemed extremely harmful to the environment, with billions of discarded ones ending up on landfill every year.

Most of us opt for online shopping due to its convenience. But as more and more of us each year are choosing the easier route and shopping from home, its positive aspects may become detrimental.

But it Certainly Doesn’t Help Things

Last year’s stats say that the UK spent a massive £381 billion within retail, and one-fifth of that was purchased via online shopping. Yes, this convenient way of shopping does lift the some of the pressures on the environment, however as it increases in popularity every year, our abusing of the system is beginning to neutralise its previously green tendencies. So how is online shopping affecting the environment?

  • Many of us take advantage of ‘Next day Delivery’ as it makes online shopping even more convenient. However, ‘Next Day Delivery’, makes it difficult for couriers and delivery services to ‘combine’ shipments, which means more delivery vehicles on the road, and more carbon emissions.
  • Online shopping usually allows you to find products for a much cheaper price. This is often due to its manufacturing, which thanks to globalisation, takes place overseas. But with many of us bulk buying cheap alternatives online our shopping is getting to us via aeroplanes, ships and other delivery vehicles which drastically impact the environment.
  • The majority of us seem to view online shopping as it means one less vehicle on the road. But when we consider how many of us take advantage of easy returns policies, with stats showing that more of us are returning than buying, not only are we increasing transportation, but in some circumstances, we’re contributing to increased waste.

  • Packaging. Although we are a nation who is trying to reduce single-use plastic and other examples of packaging, our online shopping always seems to arrive wrapped in what is sometimes excessive amounts of plastic and packaging which just gets thrown into the bin. Many of us have recognised online businesses that use silly amounts of packaging and have taken to Twitter to expose them – attempting to raise awareness and persuade those to assess their impact on the environment.

So, what do we do?

As Black Friday and Christmas creep closer, it would be good for us to take a step back and have a think about how our actions are impacting our environment. If we were to go with the consensus, many of us conclude that online shopping is the greener option of the two. However, this doesn’t mean it’s without its problems. If you are choosing to do your Christmas this year predominantly online, there are things you can do to make sure that your carbon footprint is as small as it can be.

Shop sustainably

Many companies are taking a stand and are doing their bit for the environment by not only marketing recycled products but making sure that their packaging wears a ‘100% Recycled’ badge of honour. Through a little research, you can make sure that you are buying from the most sustainable brands.

Recycle Your Packaging

Online stores like Amazon are coming under fire about their packaging, but there are still some instances in which we still get more packaging than products. When this does happen, it’s a good idea to educate yourself to what can be recycled so it doesn’t find its way to the landfill. Click here to see how to correctly recycle your packaging.

Cut Down on Your Orders

Might be a big ask as we know how much we love your online shopping and its convenience, but do you really need to buy that bulk pack of chewing gum when you could just pop to the corner shop down the road? The nation is more aware of climate change as they have ever been, and that’s because things are slowly getting worse. Just be conscious of your actions, and you might be making a bigger difference than you first think!

If you have a great sustainable business that needs an ecommerce site to match, contact Limely today!


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