With the holidays fast approaching, we had to ask ourselves the burning question: Is it more or less eco-friendly to order online?
This is truly important whenever we shop whether for gifts or plain old life. Coming up with the answer is not an easy task and fortunately, there are some super smart people out there studying the impact of online shopping and how it compares to running around hither and yon to find whatever you’re looking for at brick and mortar stores.
Listen to The Green Divas podcast episode on this very topic. Otherwise, read on to learn some surprising facts about online shopping and its impact on the environment PLUS some tips for making your holiday shopping (and everyday shopping) healthier for both the planet and us!
Surprising Facts About Online Shopping & The Environment
- It’s estimated that ecommerce shipping alone accounts for 3-4% of human-caused carbon emissions.
- A report from the European Parliament estimated that the number could rise as high as 17% by 2050.
- 37% of the online shopping carbon emissions was attributed to the shipping and return of products!
- Good news: Amazon introduced the first electric truck in 2020, and now there are over 1000 on the road. They are aiming to reach zero net carbon by 2040. Let’s see how that goes!
- What could counteract that electric vehicle good news is that by 2030, it’s estimated that number of delivery vehicles will increase by 36% (7.2 million vehicles) for an increase of about 6 million tons of CO2 emissions, according to the World Economic Forum.
- Amazon generated 599 million pounds of plastic packaging waste in 2020, according to an Oceana study. This is a 29% increase of Oceana’s 2019 estimate of 465 million pounds. The report also found that Amazon’s estimated plastic packaging waste, in the form of air pillows alone, would circle the Earth more than 600 times.
- Ocean’s study also found that up to 23.5 million pounds of Amazon’s plastic packaging waste entered and polluted the world’s waterways and oceans in 2020, the equivalent of dumping a delivery van payload of plastic into the oceans every 67 minutes.
- Of the 86 million tons of plastic packaging produced globally each year, not even 14% is recycled.
- Some 3 billion trees are pulverized every year just for paper packaging—shipping cartons, cardboard mailers, void-fill wrappers, and other paper-based packaging. (Source: Canopy)
Okay, great. It sure sounds like online shopping is the worst possible thing for us and the planet (and us)!
According to a recent MIT study, online shopping is actually more sustainable than traditional retail 75 percent of the time. What’s with the other 25%? Things like rush shipping make online shopping the worse choice because items are typically shipped in separate boxes and/or delivery trucks, in the mad rush to get the package to you, are not filled to capacity. Overall, traditional shopping has two times the carbon footprint compared to online.
There are so many variables that come into play, turning this into a rocket science project so kudos to the smart people of MIT who had the ability to boil it all down!
Take GD Action for More Sustainable Shopping
Let’s rethink how we shop for the holidays… or any time!
- Instead of a bunch of gifts, celebrate the gift of your quality time together.
- Shop less, shop local. And make it about quality not quantity so that the gift recipient is less likely to toss it.
- Give sustainable gifts like a plant or at least those with less plastic… and believe us, when you hear our next show on plastics you will never want to see plastic again in your life!
- Be crafty and make gifts!
- When you order online, build up your cart to multiple items and avoid one to two day shipping.
- Reuse or recycle the cardboard and packaging. Be sure to check with your waste service to learn what plastics can be recycled and whether you need to tear off all that plastic tape.
- Search our website for all kinds of great healthy, sustainable holiday ideas.
Please share your thoughts, shopping tips and crafty gift ideas with us here!
Also, please subscribe to our podcast on your fav podcast app (find it on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, iHeart Radio, Stitcher, Buzzsprout and more!) and share it up with your friends, family and even enemies (they need this information too)!