Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Shopping: Online vs. In-Store

Just a few years ago, changes in consumer behavior tended towards eCommerce for its numerous advantages for the consumer. These included lower prices, convenience, wide product variety, more informed decision-making, and saving time. In the US, the sales of low-priced recurrently used items was 1.5% in 2017. Estimates show that it will increase to 8% by 2025. While the advantages of eCommerce are undeniable, our planet seems to be left behind in the race. Thus, shifting towards green practices is becoming a central issue as the detrimental effects of different shopping methods on the environment are revisited. The most relevant question these days is whether eCommerce or in-store shopping is the more eco-friendly option.

Where Do Consumers Stand

Interestingly enough, the pandemic and the ensuing crisis did not bring a change in people’s personal values in terms of shopping. Findings suggest that, quite unexpectedly, sustainability is still the number one value consumers endorse. The amount of money people are spending on specific products indicate that unsustainable brands are not going to stay in business for long. That is, unless they shift towards green practices. Numerically, this translates into consumers’ willingness to pay 10-15% higher price for products and services that are eco-friendly. Specifically, if the brand follows sustainable practices and is transparent about them, they will not lose any customers. For example, a clearly traceable shipping process workflow as well as custom shipping labels can further gain our trust. Additionally, the company should have its customers’ safety at its heart.

Responsible Shopping Behavior

It is one thing for a company to recognize that adopting a green shopping policy is the way to go. The question still stands though, what we as consumers can do to become fully responsible ‘green shoppers’. It is not realistic to suggest that you return to traditional in-store shopping entirely and forget about online. Making your online purchases in a way that they leave as little carbon footprint as possible might be more reasonable.

Whenever possible, do not opt for next-day delivery as this is the option heaviest on the environment. Also, place your order when more items are about to run out rather than less. Ordering fewer items translates into more packaging and more trips overall. Not surprisingly, the more goods you order in one go, the less carbon-intensive your online purchase. What is more, your shopping habits may vary based on where you live. Keep in mind that sometimes hopping on your bike or taking public transportation could be the responsible action to take.

What Research Says

A recent article published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology discusses the pros and cons of different shopping methods in detail. The data suggests that bricks and clicks shopping, also referred to as omnichannel retail strategy, is the option most likely to reduce our carbon footprint. The most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emission are the number of goods purchased and the last-mile travel distance regardless of the way of purchasing.

The study also brought out that the substitution of delivery vans with electric cargo bikes leads to 26% less emission. Studies on the subject, in general, conclude that buying large quantities of goods, if you do not need them all, is not advisable. The reason being that returning unwanted products practically annuls any environmental benefits that online shopping might otherwise have. Sustainable Food Practices has come out with an app providing eco-responsible information about food products. Check it out to learn more about the best shopping option when it comes to food produce.

Final Words

To recap, consider whether you are opting for the more eco-friendly solution when preferring this brand over that brand. Critically view the delivery options the companies offer in order to make the wisest choice. The crucial question you need to ask yourself is what you can do to minimize the impact of your shopping? The answer may easily be that it depends. You can count on your common sense in many of the cases to aid you in your decision. Before placing an order, do your homework. Ensure that the company you are about to order from has adopted green practices. Let the distance give you a hint too. A local shop ten blocks away does not justify your ordering online. A few extra minutes spent on making the right shopping decision on your part could make for greener shopping habits in the long-run.