The environmental impact of online shopping… is it good or bad for the planet?

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E-commerce accounts for 20% of all retail sales worldwide. Its environmental impact depends on many factors… and the buyer’s preferences.
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E-commerce has become an important part of the global market. Nearly 90% of the world’s population admitted to buying online during the pandemic (2020), and the revenue from online sales is around $4.2 billion; and that figure was higher after the opening of the market, which indicates that the change in purchasing behavior can be considered to be true.

Now, e-commerce accounts for 20% of all retail sales worldwidegrew steadily by 7% in 2015, with estimates showing that it will grow to 24% by 2026. It is estimated that In 2024, online shopping will total almost 7 billion dollars and that 1 in 3 people in the world will buy online.

Now, and think about that Much of the world is concerned about climate change and take care of the environment… is it good or bad for the world to buy online?

Impact of the energy industry on the environment

Many of us feel that way The convenience of online shopping is hard to beat and we define it as the preferred method of shopping, but think that this method uses many resources, It raises doubts about whether comfort is better than environmental impact.

But better let’s see one step further, what is that positive or negative of e-commerce.

Logistics and transportation emissions

And MIT study found that shopping online can be safer than shopping in over 75% of cases reviewed. Other studies have shown that, by reducing private car travel, online shopping reduces CO2 emissions by 35% compared to physical shopping.

Electric van
Online shopping depends on shipping. Its impact can be reduced by incorporating zero-emission vehicles and optimizing fleet management.

Transportation is responsible for the majority of CO2 emissions produced by the global energy industry. A study conducted by the University of Michigan shows that transport is responsible for 7% of global CO2 emissions, while data from Clean Mobility Collective point out that only the last mile emissions (the last leg of the transport) of the six largest logistics companies in the world is about 4.5 megatons of CO2, which equivalent to the CO2 emissions of 600,000 American homes for one yearo. The study also concluded that the last mile accounts for about half of all carbon emissions.

Distribution network optimizationthrough the use of more efficient fleet management, investment in electric vehicles and consolidation of supply, can reduce the carbon footprint associated with online shopping by up to 30%.


How many times do we have amazed at the value of the packaging in any order?

Apparently, Online merchants often prioritize delivery integrity over security, leading to overuse of packaging plastic, protective material and cardboard boxes. This leads to two effects: a greater volume of waste (fortunately most of it can be recycled), and it also leads to a higher carbon footprint of the purchase.

too much volume
While companies have begun to reduce packaging, some sellers continue to protect their shipments with multiple boxes, bubble wrap, and other padding for small items.

Accordingly The horizonforest conservation group, tEvery year about 3 billion trees are cut down to make 241 million tons of shipping containers, cardboard envelopes, filler wrappers and other paper based packaging.

He United Nations Development Program (UNDP)show that The world produces around 430 million metric tons of new plastic every year. Less than 10% of plastic waste is recycled, and the rest is burned or stored in landfills or in nature, where it will last forever.

Electrical waste

With the use of new technology, we have seen the emergence of a new category of waste: electronic or e-waste. Failed planning and rapid technological changes lead to resource drains. Proper classification and recycling of this waste is important to reduce its environmental impact.

He The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) reports that 40 million tons of electronic waste are produced in the world each year.. It is estimated that the volume of this waste grows between 16% and 28% every five years, almost three times the growth of domestic waste.

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E-waste treatment is important to reduce the environmental impacts associated with planning failures and technological advances.

Electronic waste is very polluting: in addition to plastic products, which can end up in rivers and seas; They contain harmful chemicals such as phosphorus, mercury, cadmium or bromine. The minerals of The battery of a smartphone can spread more than 600,000 liters of waterapproximately the average drink of more than 3,000 Argentines a day.

Back and “quick”

As many sellers, big and small, have the return option is easy and free, the return rate is high, reaching more than a third of online shoppers who returns an item. Returns involve double transportation and may require more disposal than sales, as well as environmental damage.

fast delivery
Both return and delivery double the CO2 emissions. Both are buyer’s decisions.

It has been found further expansion in shipping, which has led to an increase in CO2 emissions because, in most cases, different shipping is required for a short period of time, causing its environmental impact.

Better or worse for the world?

We know that for sure E-commerce is gaining popularity among consumers because it is fast, convenient and sometimes even cheaper. But not all buyers consider the environmental impact of this model.

In fact, many think that, in terms of emissions, it is better to buy online than to go to the nearest store. However, the answer to this question is not so simple, since The environmental footprint of the energy industry depends on many variablessome of which we have mentioned above.

and business
E-commerce can be as earth-friendly as merchants and buyers want it to be.

What we need to be aware of is that There is no human activity that does not create an impact on the environment, because it is impossible to live without spending money.

E-commerce can be good for the world… and we can make it better, if we have commitment of all parties involved, including, of course, buyers.

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