How to Green Your Online Shopping

by Danielle on July 30, 2010

green online shoppingLessen the Impact of Your Online Shopping

Online shopping has delivered one of the greatest conveniences ever made. Can you imagine having to hunt down that rare part for your computer in a physical store? And, remember when you had to head to 8 different stores to shop around for prices on that big ticket holiday item? Online shopping changed all of that. While it can be argued that online shopping is greener than buying from a store, there’s a counter argument, too. Waste from online shopping does add up quickly, and there are some wasteful elements of shopping online that aren’t incurred from shopping in a physical location.

  1. When you shop online, you’re getting a box. Most people don’t recycle those boxes.
  2. Packaging like peanuts and bubble wrap are included in every box.
  3. Items are often shipped in separate small boxes that could be combined. has a bad habit of doing this.
  4. An item that normally was shipped from a local location may be shipped from the opposite coast when purchasing online, increasing shipping costs and energy use.
  5. Additional brochures, packing slips, and sales material are included with the item.

When you shop in a physical store, there are some differences that might be less resource intensive.

  1. The only packaging you often get are the brand’s packaging if the item comes in a box, as well as a shopping bag.
  2. There are no packing slips, just a receipt.
  3. The item could be traveling less to get to you than if you purchased online.

Online shopping can also be a much greener alternative to buying in a retail location as well.

  • Buy locally online when possible to save on shipping energy and costs.
  • Combine shipments into one box. Leave a note for the company to combine all items into one box instead of shipping separately.
  • There are no plastic bags used (usually).
  • You are responsible for recycling any of the packaging (which otherwise may not have been recycled if you had bought from a retail location). Recycle the cardboard and put the interior packing on Craigslist for free, or drop by a UPS store location to see if they could reuse it.
  • You’ll have less chance to impulse buy from in-person attention grabbers that you don’t need.

So which option is the more eco friendly of the two? It’s up to you and what you buy. Either can be an earth friendly way to shop, but it depends on what you’re buying as well as who you are buying it from (and where they are located). Which do you think is the more earth friendly option?

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