How Green is Shopping Online?

Shopping can be a hassle, especially during the holiday season. There are traffic jams and long lines at every cashier's counter, and stores are extra busy and packed. It's tempting to just avoid these stressors by shopping online, but is online shopping good for the planet? Here we will look at the pros and cons of online shopping.

Some of the benefits of shopping online include:

  • By shopping online, you can avoid driving and save on gas, avoid getting caught in traffic and spend more time looking for the perfect gifts for your loved ones.
  • You have more opportunity to be picky about where your items were made, by whom, and how. When you show in local malls or boutiques, you are limited to their inventory. Most online stores will give you a little extra information about the products being sold.
  • You can save on armloads of paper and plastic shopping bags.
  • You can find and support a greater variety of stores online that are doing good things for the environment, as well as a greater variety of items.

The greatest downside to online shopping is the fact that items purchased have to be shipped to you. Whenever possible, request that multiple items be shipped together and try to be aware of where the item will be shipped from. If the item has to be shipped across the country (or from another country) to you, you're not going to feel too good about your carbon impact on the environment. Either try to find the item from a store closer to you, or consider buying carbon credits to offset the emissions. If you can, also encourage sellers to reuse envelopes and bubble mailers or use recycled packaging materials.

It can be tempting to print all of your receipts when you shop online, but this is not necessary and is wasteful of paper resources. A way to save your receipts electronically, if the shopping cart you're purchasing from doesn't give you this option, is to copy/paste your confirmation page into a new text file on your computer (using a program like Microsoft Word or Notepad). Alternatively, simply write down all of your confirmation numbers, order prices, and the website names/urls on a single piece of paper for future reference. Most shopping websites also have an option for you to create an account on their website, so you can log in later and acquire all of the information you need on recent purchases.

Online shopping can be a green shopping alternative if you take your time and are selective in how and where you buy.

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