Online Shopping: Green it Up!

Online shopping: is it really the greener choice? Even we wondered whether it was the cleaner way to shop. While shopping online eliminates the emissions you’d expend by driving to and from the store, it also often comes with long shipping distances and non-biodegradable packaging. Both are bad news. So, here are some tips to making your online shopping a bit greener:

  • Think about it – when you order something and get it shipped, it’s going to have to make a trip to your house. So if you’re shopping for multiple items, try to order from the same place all at once. That way, your stuff will only make one trip rather than several trips.
  • Pay attention to the practices of the sites where you shop. Major sites, such as Amazon, have begun to use recyclable and sustainable shipping methods. So now you’ll have a choice in buying more eco-friendly.
  • Choose green shipping. If they don’t offer it, in the “special comments” box, ask for your items to be shipped together, if possible. Or for recyclable materials to be used. They might not be able to grant those requests, but you definitely have a right to ask.

There are thousands of online stores to choose from – not sure where to start? Here are some sites that offer air-friendly options:

  • Etsy.com provides various sellers that offer vintage, handmade products. Many are eco-friendly sellers. This site gives you direct contact from who you’re buying from. So, you’ll have the ability to buy from sellers that only ship using sustainable, air-friendly methods.
  • Ebay’s World of Good online store lets you shop from fair trade sellers. The sellers are split into categories and you can choose to only shop from those labeled “eco-positive,” meaning they make and ship their products using sustainable, air-friendly means.
  • Amazon uses TerraPass to calculate their carbon footprint. They also offer combined shipping and have a Frustration-Free Packaging program that uses recyclable cardboard for shipping.
  • For shipping, UPS uses alternative energy vehicles, sustainable packaging, and technology that maps more efficient routes.
  • Of course, the greenest places to shop don’t do any shipping at all! Downloading purchases through sites like iTunes or Amazon (instead of ordering CDs and DVDs) completely eliminates the litter and air pollution factor—it’s très air-friendly! So, although hard copies are still an option, remember that direct downloading is the cleanest, zero-emission way to get your music and movies!

If online shopping isn’t an option, shop greener by carpooling or riding transit to and from the store. (In other words, take friends along. Shopping’s more fun with them, anyway.) And if you drive, try to trip chain by charting a route where you can stop by several stores in one trip.

And don’t forget to log your air-friendly online shopping and cleaning commuting on AirCreds for points and prizes!

To Shop Online, or Not to Shop Online: Which Choice is Greener?

This holiday season, I did the majority of my shopping online. I have to admit- part of the reason I did this was for the simple convenience. However, it also gave me a good feeling about what I was doing for the environment. Just consider all of the emissions we pour into the environment when we drive everywhere to do our shopping. During the holidays, I’d imagine that you could easily double or triple that amount.

Just as I was starting to get that warm and fuzzy environmentally friendly feeling, the realization hit me. What about the impact of the delivery process required to ship my purchases to me? What about the UPS, FedEx, and US Postal trucks? Was I unknowingly contributing to the problem? To answer this, I decided to conduct a little research.

I found a few super helpful articles–some were older, but still informative. For example, one site called Triple Pundit conducted a study comparing shopping in stores on Black Friday with shopping online during Cyber Monday. They found that if you shopped in stores on Black Friday, your negative impact on the environment was 50 times what it would have been if you shopped online!

Another site called ecomii talks about the benefits of shopping online—some I didn’t even think of! When you shop online, not only do you reduce emissions from driving from store to store, but you also have more eco-friendly options to buy. Also, when you use online coupons, you save paper, which conserves both trees and water. Think about this: it takes 500,000 trees to make the Sunday newspapers that hold coupons, and 3.75 million gallons of water to make that paper! Personally, I think we need to reduce those numbers.

Yet another website called treehugger takes this conversation a step further and talks about the impact of air travel. They propose that online stores like Amazon start using a calculator to look at carbon emissions including air travel so we as consumers can choose products with a smaller carbon footprint. Since trucks do not necessarily ship all of our goods, this calculation would help us make more environmentally friendly choices.

Even though online shopping definitely isn’t entirely green, it does appear as though it’s better for the environment than shopping in stores. If you’re not an online shopper, one way you can reduce your impact is by walking or riding your bike to stores, or by combining trips. And hey, you’ll save gas money, too.

What do you think about online shopping? Do you have a favorite online store? Let me know in the comments below!