This week’s Sustainability Tip of the Week #STOTW discusses the impact online shopping has on carbon footprint.
Over the past decade, the popularity of online shopping has grown exponentially. Almost every major store in the United States has its own online store. You can purchase almost anything online- food, clothes, electronics. You name it, it’s there. The convenience of online shopping has created a shift in the way consumers shop. While online shopping saves consumers a trip to the store, it means that items are being shipped, flown, and driven right to their doorstep instead. So which is better for the environment: shopping online or shopping in-store?
In 2013, a study was done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology #MIT to compare the carbon footprints of traditional in-store shopping and online-shopping. The study took into account aspects such as packaging, transportation, and energy categories including computer usage for online purchases, and energy consumption of warehouses and retail stores that typical items are stored in.
The figure below shows the breakdown of the environmental impacts of a traditional in-store shopper, an impulse in-store shopper, a shopper who does research online but buys items in-store, a modern shopper who searches online and in-store options but ultimately purchases
items online, a modern shopper who uses expedited online shipping, an online-shopper (cybernaut) who uses traditional shipping, and an online-shopper who uses expedited shipping, and various online shoppers with various methods of returning items.
The results of the study show that shopping online is in fact better for the environment in terms of reducing your carbon footprint, as long as you don’t choose expedited shipping options. Because shipping companies optimize their delivery process as much as possible, it is more efficient than when consumers travel to the store to purchase items. As online shopping become more popular, more studies are expected to be published, but for now, it looks like online shopping is the way to go! For more information about the study, you can read it here.
Photo source: pixabay.com
Written by Alyssa Lemire, Class of 2017