September 2, 2018

Why Sustainability is Important to me when I’m Shopping Online.

The argument of whether making purchases online or shopping at a brick-and-mortar store is a better choice, is constantly up for debate.  

The fact that environmental impact of manufacturing, packaging, and transporting a single package may be greater than making a purchase in-store is relative to the product itself.

However, chances are you don’t want to give up the convenience of items shipped to your front doorstep. And, with the ever increasing availability of services such as one-day shipping and Amazon Prime, shipping is as easy as a click away.

So here are a few tips to help manage your waste, if not eliminate it completely:

Green out

Be on the lookout for eco-conscious brands. Chances are, if they care about creating an organically sourced product made with love, they will also keep packaging to a minimum and only use recyclable material. By supporting these companies, you make a conscious effort to reduce hidden tolls on the environment.

You can also notify the company that you would like reduced packaging as most companies are incentivised to use the cheapest material. By doing this, you can create a kinetic chain of action. So go ahead and encourage those companies to convert to more energy efficient methods.

Brands all over the world have jumped on the eco-conscious bandwagon. Various firms have opted to manufacture their products in solar and wind-powered warehouses and offices. It also helps to purchase from companies that help their local economy and give back.

Don’t be afraid to say No.

Albeit convenient, online deliveries can often become impulsive buys or an addictive habit of therapy. It’s important to monitor your online purchases, not only because of the holes in your wallet your choices may incur, but because of their effects on the planet.

A splurge can have you hoarding waste and spending on things you don’t need and will never use. Being mindful during the browsing process can help you manage your waste before clicking the checkout button. If you frequent the web for materialistic sources of happiness, it can be helpful to ask yourself “Do I really need this?” or “Will I actually use this?”

It helps to consider buying less or buying used to take control of your environmental impact.


Interestingly enough, studies show conflicting results and arguments on the environmental impacts of online shopping. According to one study by the United States Census Bureau, more shoppers are taking initiative to purchase through their cell phones rather than in person.

A study from Carnegie Mellon University reflects that online shopping is less energy-consuming than buying in store 80 percent of the time. This is due to the transportation of a single customer outweighing the packaging and delivery costs of e-commerce.

However, the study omits the effects of manufacturing and delivering the item to storage. On the contrary, if your item is close by, it may be helpful to consider the life cycle of the item. For example, it would probably be more sustainable to walk to the local organic store and pick up a bunch of bananas rather than having a bunch of groceries shipped to your home.

Whether it is more effective to buy the product in-store or online all depends on how far you’d have to travel for the product. Efficiency always wins. Walking, biking, taking the bus, or carpooling with friends are great options to avoid those hidden environmental costs of delivery and packaging.

Reuse and recycle

Every step makes a difference so don’t hesitate to throw that cardboard box in the recycling bin.

Reducing packaged waste is definitely hard to do when companies are ready to stuff your ready to ship box with styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap. Of course you can always make the effort to reuse or recycle that cardboard box, but what to do with sticky tape and plastic film?

Here’s the good news—bubble wrap and fill-air pillows are recyclable at local grocery stores that have bins marked with identification codes #2 and #4. These materials cannot be placed in recycling bins. They must be recycled at drop-off locations at accept packaging, wraps, and retail bags.

Recycling is a beautiful thing. Go the extra mile by transforming recycling into a mindset. The integration of eco-consciousness ain’t easy, but know individuals and communities are making a global effort to save the planet.

Trust that your choices inspire those around you and contribute to a bigger picture.

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Christin Lee

author: Christin Lee

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