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How to Create a Greener Shopping Experience from Home

Treat yourself to a guilt-less shopping experience

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A coin being inserted a coin slot displayed on a phone that shows a webpage where the customer is currently purchasing an item
With your phone, you can easily purchase anything online

Source: Morning Brew [7]

Living in the golden age of technology definitely has its perks, especially when it comes to online shopping - everything can now be purchased on the internet.

Need a plain white tee delivered to your door? Check.

Want the newest phone? Done.

Lack kitchen tools? Don’t worry.

No time for groceries? No problem.

You can easily purchase anything by just tapping a few buttons on your devices, making it very convenient for consumers and businesses everywhere. A common misconception with online shopping is that it is the greener alternative when in fact, our convenience is harming the environment. To put it in perspective, in order to meet demand, more delivery vehicles are moving around the city which have further escalated the level of congestion, pollution, emission and waste [1].

Three parked white delivery trucks lined up waiting to deliver packages
White delivery trucks lined up to deliver packages

Source: Andrew Winkler [8]

The stage that uses the most amount of energy is the stage which the logistics industry calls the “last mile”. This is when all the purchases are sorted to their respective delivery vehicles and are sent right to your doorstep but the “last mile” is known to generate the highest level of CO2 emissions compared to all the other stages of the delivery process, creating a big gap in the level of pollution between purchasing online and shopping in physical stores [2].


Other than that, with the increased number of purchases from households across the globe, packaging has greatly contributed to our plastic waste problem. This is because people often purchase one or two items at a time, which requires multiple layers of packaging to prevent it from wreckage. For example, an item placed in a small box would be covered in bubble wrap or plastic then placed in a bigger box which as a result, increases plastic and cardboard that are tossed. To put it simply, we are drowning in an ocean of packaging waste [3].

A woman sitting on the floor with her laptop shopping online while surrounded by endless piles of packaging and boxes
Online shopping while surrounded by mountains of wasteful packaging

Source: Andrea Piacquadio [9]

Ideally, an eco-friendly solution would be for the logistics industry to make use of electric vehicles or low-tech alternatives such as bikes, which do not contribute to urban smog, pollution and waste since it would not require as much packaging.

However, using electric vehicles would take a lot of changes in the operations of the industry and would require a huge capital for the logistic businesses. As for bikes, it would require a lot more time and manpower resulting in inefficiencies [2,4].


While we wait for technology to catch up or the industry to grow, we as consumers can help lessen the amount of pollution and waste that goes into online shopping. Here are some tips to make your online shopping experience eco-friendlier:

1. Plan ahead

A person writing a shopping list which consists of bread, eggs and milk
Make a Shopping List

By planning your purchases in advance, the seller can easily package your items into one box and deliver it in one trip. For example, you are grocery shopping online and notice that you are almost running out of toilet paper. Instead of waiting for it to run out and purchasing it later, purchase it along with your other groceries. Not only does it save delivery costs but consolidating your purchases would mean lower CO2 emissions since fewer trips will be taken and less packaging would be used [4,5].

Source: cottonbro [10]

2. Be sure of your purchases

Impulsive purchases and/or returns are significant factors that contribute to the amount of carbon emissions and waste that comes from online shopping. It is shown that by returning items, the amount of pollution is twice more than purchasing from a brick and mortar store [5]. Shopping clothes online can be tricky especially if you are unsure of your size and some people are tempted to purchase two sizes of the same item to try them on at home and return the wrong size.

Instead of doing this, there are two more sustainable options. First, you can list down your measurements and look at the size chart before purchasing then, choose the size that is closest to your measurements.

If you are still unsure, the second option would just simply be go try it on in the store [4,5].

3. For non-food deliveries, stir away from one day shipping

When you have the option to expedite your shipping, it is common to feel tempted to click that button and get your item right away, especially if it’s free. However, choosing this option not only leads to higher CO2 emissions by 30% but also higher costs for the logistics companies since more delivery vehicles are required, further worsening congestion as a result. Don’t worry, non-food deliveries do not go out of date, so you can wait an extra day or two [6].

4. Pick stores with biodegradable packaging or reusable bags

A man walking with two reusable shopping bags
Shop using reusable bags

The last tip is to choose stores that have eco-friendly packaging, such as biodegradable plastics, cardboards or even better, reusable bags. Not only does this decrease the amount of packaging waste but you can also use the new bag for grocery shopping or running errands [6].

Source: Marcus Chen [11]

By implementing these tips, you would have an enjoyable greener shopping experience from the comfort of your own home and have it delivered right to your door.


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