Evaluating the Effect of Online Shopping

Isabelle Agee-Jacobson, Contributing Writer

If you’re like most people, the last time you bought something online was probably pretty recently. You probably received your package a few days after you ordered it and didn’t even have to get out of your pajamas.

Although online shopping is convenient, it is harsher on the environment than traditional shopping—for three main reasons.

First, delivery trucks produce more carbon emissions than normal cars do, and online shopping requires them to be driven more. Instead of being driven to centrally located stores, more trucks are driven to many dispersed houses.

A large part of the online shopping business model is the quick arrival of goods, which changes consumers’ expectations of when they will receive their orders. As a result of this and the ease of online shopping, many people receive multiple packages on their doorstep everyday—further increasing the amount of travel trucks are used for. According to a report UPS created, 31% of online shoppers expect expedited shipping options at checkout.

Some people may argue that online shopping is better for the environment than brick and mortar shopping because one truck can deliver goods to many different people in just one efficient trip, instead of a truck taking goods to a store and individual people coming to get them at the store. However, this argument only holds true when trucks are able to deliver a lot of packages at one time. Right now, because people want their stuff the day after they order it, trucks are making trips before they have accumulated enough orders for their trip to be worth the environmental harm.

Online shopping is not going away anytime soon. It is too convenient and too life-changing to disappear. Luckily, there are things that both consumers and companies can do to make shopping easy and kind to the environment.”

In addition, online shopping means a lot of wasted cardboard and plastic. Unlike when goods arrive at stores in cardboard boxes, the individual goods that you order are often packaged separately even if they arrive at the same time. This means companies are creating and using many more boxes than are actually necessary and are using loads of plastic bubble wrap, tape, and padding that can’t be reused.

Online shopping is not going away anytime soon. It is too convenient and too life-changing to disappear. Luckily, there are things that both consumers and companies can do to make shopping easy and kind to the environment.

Online shopping sites like Amazon can offer and provide incentives for using a green form of shipping. This green option would mean that consumers would have to wait a little longer to get their goods so that the company could accumulate more orders to deliver in a single trip. Additionally, the green shipping option would mean that orders would be packaged using recycled cardboard, would be consolidated into fewer boxes, and would use environmentally friendly packaging like newspaper.

In addition, companies can deliver their goods using smaller electric trucks instead of the enormous gas-guzzling, carbon-emitting delivery trucks that they use now. The package delivery service UPS has already invested in making their own electric delivery trucks.

But not all of the changes have to be made by companies. There is a lot that we as consumers can do to make online shopping less detrimental to the environment. First, we can shop less. The ease of online shopping has led people to shop much more than they would normally and for things that they could probably do without. We can also consolidate our orders, ordering seven things at once instead of ordering something every day for a week.

But the biggest thing we can do is to put pressure on companies to move in a more environmentally friendly direction. Without consumer pressure, these companies are unlikely to do much to become more committed to protecting the environment.