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Online Shopping

By Karen Bowley, Wodonga Albury Toward Climate Health (WATCH) and member of Wooragee Landcare

Have you done your Christmas shopping yet?  Not long to go.  Will you go shopping in store or online?

I don’t usually shop online as I like to see the item in its actual size and shape, but it seems that I am behind the times.  Not only is online shopping at its peak at Christmas time but we are fast becoming a nation of online shoppers.  I have a friend who buys everything, except food, online.

But being environmentally aware, I am interested in whether online shopping is sustainable and environmentally friendly and how it compares to traditional shopping.

So it was with great interest that I recently read an article in The Conversation by David M Herold who is a Sustainable Logistics Researcher at Griffith University.  He has looked at the research and reckons that online shopping is more environmentally friendly than visiting a store mainly because a delivery truck uses far less fuel per package than an equivalent number of people driving in person to pick them up.

However, for online shopping to be environmentally friendly, you have to follow some important rules which are:

  1. Online purchasing is better for the environment, but only if the entire process remains digital from start to finish. So, no store visiting first (this can almost double your carbon footprint), use suitable delivery options to ensure your parcel arrives on time, eliminates extra deliveries and reduces your carbon impact.
  2. Buy well in advance as this gives transport companies to chance to consolidate the packages into fewer trips, increasing efficiency and reducing emissions.
  3. Make sure you know exactly what you want, to avoid returning items. Herold  states that Zalando, one of the biggest online retail websites in the US, where 50% of goods are returned because shipping and post is free, used 4.5 billion litres of diesel fuel and emitted 12 million tonnes of carbon emissions in 2015 alone!   So every avoided return is a contribution to the environment.
  4. Opt for eco-friendly packaging and reuse it, especially boxes and cushioning materials. We have many options for recycling in Albury Wodonga especially now that we have Redcycle which is for soft plastic recycling. Hope you have watched the War on Waste on the ABC to realise the magnitude of our waste problem.

Happy eco-friendly shopping!