Online shopping is a greener way to buy, but there are a lot of exceptions to that rule, such as whereabouts your house is, and the volume at which you buy. In other words, you need to carry out your Internet shopping in a very specific way to keep your carbon footprint small.
CO2 production is where we find that online shopping is far more environmentally friendly than retail shopping. The Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh concluded this through their Logistics Research Centre in spring of 2009, when they settled on two fundamental principles…
- The customer drives to the mall/shop in their car
- The customers doesn’t bulk buy, but instead buys fewer than 24 small products.
They then went on to establish in the research paper (find it here) that the average van delivery emits just 180g of carbon dioxide, whereas the average trip in a car to the mall creates 4,274g of CO2. Of course we won’t always find that the two fundamental principles are relevant, and two possible confounding variables may be:
- The customer returns the item by post (another 180g CO2 trip by van)
- The driver fails to deliver the item (in which case the item must return by van to the warehouse)
In the majority of cases we believe that the two fundamental principles will be true, and the two confounding variables will not; making online shopping far more eco-friendly.
Few people will go through life without carefully considering at least one purchase. Considering bargain hunting and saving money has become almost fashionable during the economic recession as well, being able to carry out your own research on the product you want to buy. When the person is doing this via the Internet, it’s quite economically friendly: they use price comparison sites and bookmarks to revisit the site after they’ve thought about it. When the customer is trying to research a product through high street stores, however, things get a bit hairy.
They might, for instance, choose not to buy on that day. That means they’ve taken a car journey to the store and back, and will be making that journey again once they’re decided. They might also decide they need to see how much the product costs in a similar store, and drive there too. That’s at least one extra car journey, where there could be zero when the products are bought online. Online shopping 2 – 1 high-street buying.
Even using the Internet to do research could make the whole process greener, even if you do still make the final purchase in person, driving there in your car (after all, we all like to touch and see the product right before us before we buy; especially when it comes to clothing). We recommend you check out Promo Codes: an online saving portal, shopping review aggregator BizRate, and price comparison site PriceGrabber to optimize your eco-friendly shopping sprees.
Storage of Products
You might consider that a large warehouse, in an optimal location for deliveries out to buyers, would be more environmentally friendly than a lot of small chain stores located in town centers. The products can be stored to their required temperature (without having to cool or heat stores to suit customers) and there’s no need to make each store look great either as customers see that through the website.
It’s almost impossible to know whether retail shopping or online shopping is greener, given that both have their merits and downfalls, and there’s no way to know what people’s individual situations are (let alone how they’re likely to act when they’re going to buy something). Nobody should feel like they should shop either way because it’s greener, because it just may not be that way at all.
We suggest that instead you take on some measures that suit your lifestyle in order to make your shopping experience that bit more economically healthy. Here are some ideas…
1. Bulk Buy wherever you go (this is good for mall shopping as it will save you making trips for that product for a long time, and it’s good for online shopping because it saves on packaging)
2. If you need to drive outside of your regular route to buy a product, buy it online instead (e.g. if you have to buy golf clubs for your Dad’s birthday present from a sports shop that’s five miles in the opposite direction to where you normally drive)
3. Find eco-friendly online vendors (check the ‘About Us’ section on their website to see if they use recycled packaging)
4. Opt for general delivery services when buying online (e.g. UPS, Fedex etc.) as these vans will be delivering to your area anyway. A company’s private delivery van, on the other hand, might only have your delivery to make that day, but still have to drive 30 miles to make it.
So we’ve given our opinions and theories, we’d like to hear yours. Tell us which of the two ways to shop you thinkis greener, and feel free to leave your eco-friendly shopping tips in our comments box below…
This is a guest post by Annie Wallace of Viral Mom