The Environmental Cost of Online Shopping
July 27, 2022
In the age of the internet, efficiency is everything, especially when it comes to e-commerce. Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) like personal care and homecare products are increasingly ordered online rather than in-store and are delivered within days of purchase. Factors such as delivery, packaging, and a perceived demand by consumers to receive goods faster all contribute to emissions and waste related to online shopping. But is it worse than going to the store yourself?
Truthfully, the environmental impact is more complicated than you’d think. Consumer behavior, waste, logistics, the type and amount of packaging, and the distance from distribution hub to store or home all play a role. A recent study published by MIT’s Real Estate Innovation Lab compiled research on both shopping options to address some of these complexities. Under specific circumstances, ordering goods for delivery actually has less of an impact on the environment because shoppers are making fewer individual trips. But change some of the assumptions, such as inefficient freight consolidation or amount of packaging, and the results favor in-store shopping.
When there is a perceived demand for receiving goods as fast as possible, companies will cater to the consumer. So, what’s the best thing you can do to avoid the online shopping conundrum? Be a conscious consumer! The less stuff you buy, online or in-store, the less you’ll contribute to waste and pollution. Think about alternative buying options for FMCGs such as buying in bulk, buying local, and consolidating trips to the store.
By Olivia Beckstead