There are numerous studies showing that online shopping is significantly greener and more sustainable than the traditional shopping method in a brick and mortar store. The biggest common factor identified from all the studies is the carbon footprint shoppers contribute when traveling to the stores by cars. However, thanks to the increasing popularity of 2-day delivery or even same-day delivery shipping method, the carbon emission from delivery trucks and airplanes is increasing dramatically over the years as well due to the increase in delivery trips.
Of course, the adverse impact to the environment from traditional shopping is still a lot greater than E-Commerce, but are we at the point of diminishing return in terms of carbon footprint especially with the popularity of hybrid and electric personal vehicles? There is obviously room for improvement for E-Commerce in terms of environmental friendliness here!
- Use a central locker system to deliver packages such as the UPS Access Point. Instead of delivering each package individually to people’s home, sellers can deliver the package to a convenient locker location that is near the customer’s home to save delivery time and trips. And the customers do not need to worry about missing the package if the delivery is made when they are not home (which is usually the case, then there will either be additional delivery trips or the customers will need to drive to pick up the package, producing unnecessary carbon footprint). In fact, there is one locker within one kilometer (0.6 miles) radius of the residential area in some major cities in China!
- Eliminate plastic packaging! It is unfortunately not yet practical to completely eliminate plastic when it comes to shipping supplies like tape, bubble wrap, bubble mailers, etc. But we can easily get rid of plastic when it comes to packaging. Instead of plastic poly bag, wrap, and box, use cloth pouch, boxes made of cardboard, wood, and metal, or if cost permitted, use products made of hemp!
E-commerce is without a doubt a greener alternative to shop, but there are still several easy changes we can implement to make it even better. To all shoppers and sellers, always be mindful of the environment, your individual action does make a difference!