Following the start of the coronavirus pandemic, e-commerce sales increased by 43% in 2020 and are still on the rise two years later.  With more consumers shopping online, there has also been an increase in carbon emissions due to overseas shipping of items and the fuel needed to deliver packages.  

There are studies citing that if done correctly, online shopping can be more eco-friendly than traditional retail. According to Miguel Jaller, a professor of civil engineering at the University of California Davis and co-director of the Sustainable Freight Research Center, shopping online is 87% more efficient than in store shopping in terms of CO₂ emissions and vehicle-miles traveled. However, if unchecked, e-commerce can have negative impacts on the environment due to inefficient shipping, returning of products, and excessive packaging.  

With the popularity of online shopping on the rise, there are steps that can be taken to ensure your shopping experience is as eco-friendly as it can be.  

Eco-friendly online shopping tips:  

  • Choose slower delivery options. 
    • When you select a slower delivery option, you allow e-tailers to maximize their efficiency by consolidating orders.
  • Use online shopping to replace, not supplement in store shopping. 
    • For example, if the warehouse is far away from your home, online shopping could be the better option. 
  • Purchase items in bulk, rather than doing single product purchases. 
  • Minimize returns where you can.  
    • In the garment industry, 84% of all returns end up in landfills or incinerated. 
  • Shop from eco-friendly retailers 
    • Companies are transitioning to transparency in terms of their environmental policies. Look into the packaging the company uses and if it is shipped exclusively in the US.
Information from the American Chemical Society, the United States Census Bureau and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.