In the age of the all-powerful Internet, it’s no surprise that there’s been a huge trend towards online shopping. After all, who doesn’t like the sound of being able to browse through your favourite stores from the comfort of your couch at home? Since the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no secret that e-commerce has been on the rise - studies show that it’s exceeded upwards of a whopping 6 trillion USD in worldwide revenue since 2022, and as of today, it takes up more than 20 percent of all total retail sales around the world.
With all these mind-blowing numbers, it’s clear that online shopping is popular for a wealth of different reasons. But is it really sustainable? Although research states that e-commerce can use up to 30% less energy than traditional, in-person retail, there are still points of concern when we look at the bigger picture, particularly in the excess of single-use packaging and the CO2 emissions associated with transportation and shipping.
With sustainability becoming a bigger and bigger topic of conversation, environmentally conscious consumers might wonder what they can do to shop in a more eco-friendly way online, so that our planet can be impacted as little as possible. And that, of course, is where the concept of the “green economy” comes in.
Why Is a Green Economy So Important?
A “green economy,” as defined by the United Nations, is an economy that’s functionally low-carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive. This means that a green economy is one where sustainability - and, by extension, the sustainable consumption of products - is the major focus. An ideal economy is both environmentally and socially sustainable, meaning that it successfully fosters economic development without degrading the environment in any way.
As you might guess, this is the dream because it doesn’t sacrifice economic growth for the health of the environment. Instead, it’s able to achieve a perfect balance of both! But of course, this is much easier said than done, so it’s important to know how to be a sustainable shopper even through the web, so that your packages can succeed at both satisfying that shopping itch and protecting the planet.
So How Can You Shop Online More Sustainably?
#1: Choose Sustainable Brands
This one’s a no-brainer. Brands that make sustainability a priority may be rarer than the big-name giants you see everywhere, but they’re more than worth looking out for! Sustainable brands boast huge range and can sell anything from clothes to home decor, not to mention that they’re good for the environment to boot.
These brands often work hard to use biodegradable materials in their products and packaging, which means that they produce a lot less waste than traditional brands. These materials also use up less energy to produce, making for a greatly reduced carbon footprint. When you consider that sustainable brands also place quality above quantity - meaning they’re more likely to make items that last longer - it’s a win-win!
#2: Look for Local Suppliers
Did you know that for every $100 spent on a local business, about $73 remains in the local economy? This means that when you buy local, you’re supporting your community and actively contributing to its growth. Even when you’re shopping online, you have the option to choose local suppliers nearer to your home, who will not only appreciate your support but also produce less carbon emissions than faraway suppliers who’d need more transportation.
Since a green economy places lots of importance on both economical and environmental development, there’s few better ways to work towards building one than shopping locally - even over the Internet.
#3: Thrift Whenever Possible
Thrifting is on the rise these days - and for good reason! When you buy used, recycled products like clothing or furniture, you’re doing a whole lot of good for the environment. Not only does choosing used items over new ones save them from piling up in landfills, it also reduces the demand for new products, leading to less energy spent, less carbon produced, and less pollution caused by factories.
Sites like thredUP or Depop are great options for clothing, while ones like Kijiji are versatile and can be used for pretty much anything. So next time you’re browsing for new buys online, consider thrifting!
#4: Avoid Express Shipping When You Can
We know, we know - sometimes you can’t help but be tempted to click that shiny “express shipping” option so you can get your package as soon as possible. It may seem like a small difference in the grand scheme, but most of the time, it actually does more harm than it’s worth.
Choosing express shipping leads to companies spending more resources to try and get your new purchase to you as fast as possible. This means they’re less efficient with delivery, often sending only a few packages in one trip instead of having the time to wait and send them out in bigger bundles, which - uh-oh - produces even more carbon emissions than normal.
#5: Make Sure to Minimize Packaging
The packaging companies use to protect your purchases usually ends up in landfills as excessive waste more often than not. A whopping 91% of used packaging is sent to these landfills, where they pose a huge risk of polluting the environment. What’s more, wasteful packaging is an enormous issue as well - big businesses aren’t all that concerned about efficient packaging, so a lot of the time they use way more than what’s needed and end up making the landfill problem worse.
A great way to combat all that waste is to choose businesses and brands that use sustainable, biodegradable packaging, made of natural materials that are plant-based and compostable. This reduces waste and makes sure that your used packaging doesn’t harm the planet after you get your hands on your purchase - in fact, they actively benefit it!
Being a sustainable consumer isn’t just important to building a well-balanced economy. It’s crucial. At the end of the day, the dream of the “green economy” might seem like a lofty goalpost to reach, but good news is that we’re already one step closer with the spike in more energy-efficient online shopping! The next step, of course, is to be an environmentally conscious shopper even when you’re purchasing over the Internet, and tips like these are both easy to remember and effective at the job.
So don’t hesitate to keep them in mind next time you feel that shopping itch. We’re all living on the same planet, after all - it’s time we do our part to protect it.