Is online shopping good for the environment or is it wasteful?

December 1st, 2008 by Tara

 

environmentally friendly shipping? 

Image by biofriendly

Online shopping is becoming more and more popular, especially since people are trying to save money on gas, looking for better and bigger discounts and are trying to avoid the holiday crowds.  Online shopping has become so popular, it even has its own version of “Black Friday” – “Cyber Monday“.  But is online shopping really good for the environment?

Now you are probably wondering why would I even say something like that?  I’ll be honest, what got me asking that question was I ordered a couple of things online for my son.  When I got my confirmation email, I was told that my items may be coming in separate boxes.  That was fine – I figured maybe they were being shipped from different locations.  The first item arrived in a box that was a little big for the item, but not enough to even think twice about it.  Then, the second item arrived….a 4″ rattle.  the box it came in was at least 4 inches wide, 12 inches long and about 6 inches high.

Why would my item need a box that big?  It didn’t…pure and simple, a waste of packing material.  That box could have been used to ship something larger, the “filler” (which looked like just brown paper – hopefully recycled) could have been used for something else, etc.  In addition to that, when I looked at the labels on both boxes, I noticed they were shipped from the same location.  So add to the list wasting postage, more packaging supplies, gas for the driver to make two stops at my house (even if UPS is using low emission Natural Gas Vehicles), etc.

Please note I wasn’t charged extra for the items to be shipped separately (at least not that I was aware of), but no matter how you look at it, that particular online shopping experience was more wasteful than it was good for the environment.  The one thing it did save me was having to go to the store lugging a toddler and an infant and I do have a few extra boxes I will use to wrap gifts in….so I guess maybe in the long run it evens out…or does it?

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One Response to “Is online shopping good for the environment or is it wasteful?”

  1. [...] 3) While you might be in a crunch to get last minute gifts, shopping online might not be your best option.  It might be the most convenient in terms of avoiding the post office at this time of year, but is it really the best choice in terms of environmental impact?  Believe it or not, there are companies who waste materials when they ship, so if you do resort to last minute online shopping, please request minimal packaging, i.e. there’s no reason for them to ship a small rattle in a huge box. [...]

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