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!


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