Online-Shopping vs Instore-Shopping? – The Sustainability Check
Most of us might think: buying in-store must be more environmentally friendly than shopping online. We’re seeing more and more delivery workers out in public everyday, which is provoking the thought – ‘this just can’t be good’.
You’d be mistaken to think there is an easy explanation as to how our choices and behaviours are impacting our environment.
We should keep in mind that not only are our purchases in local stores not climate-neutral but they are also expanding our own personal ecological footprint. Each store has to be provided with energy for heating, cooling and lighting along with running the operations at warehouses and logistic centres along the value chain. The CO2-balance also depends on our means of transportation to and from these stores – ideally we cycle or go by foot but in many cases we are adding to the problem by guzzling fuel in our vehicles for convenience. The German Federal Environment Agency points out that, according to the current state of knowledge, the difference between online and offline trade, when viewed in isolation is “tending to be unclear to weak”. The comparison between the two is difficult to make due to many individual factors. Below you can see the CO2 balance of a shoe purchase in comparison.
Carbon balance of a shoe purchase in comparison
Gram Carbon Dioxide, Source: SZ-Grafik with data from Öko-Institut
Let’s take a look at the seven things we can do as a retailer and as consumers in order to make shopping online as sustainable as possible:
1. Environmentally friendly packaging
When shopping online, not only are the purchased products packaged, they are also being delivered in one-use boxes. This overpacking produces more and more garbage. A reusable or deposit system could provide a remedy here. Until the first ideas are ready for the market, we at Conflictfood try to reuse existing packaging in order to cut our waste. We are using plastic residue-free filling-material and opt for packaging as small as possible. You can do the same thing: Try to reuse the boxes for your next shipment!
2. Bundle orders
Make lists of things you don’t need right away. By doing so, you might be able to combine several orders into one and save on shipping costs, CO2 and packaging material. Talk to your friends, colleagues and neighbours about organizing joint orders. By the way: extra shipping costs, which correspond to the actual effort, lead to the fact that purchases are made as collectively as possible. For this reason, we have decided to include the shipping costs separately and not to “swallow” in the product price.
3. Directly from the provider
Try to avoid ordering from large online marketplaces like Amazon & Co but rather order directly from the provider. Many local shops and boutiques have their own online stores, giving them a better chance of surviving.
4. Climate neutral shipping
When choosing a dealer, pay attention to criteria such as green shipping and transparent supply chains. By the way, your Conflictfood package will be delivered to you in a climate-neutral manner, and greenhouse gases generated during transportation will be offset by climate projects.
5. Cool isn’t always cool
Do not order goods that need to be cooled, but try to buy them in the supermarket on site. The required cooling packs and insulating materials lead to even more packaging buildup.
6. Not at home?
Choose a delivery address where you or someone you trust can actually receive the package. If that doesn’t work, you can also have it delivered to a Packstation or directly to your office – our experience shows that generally, these packages are delivered on the first go.
Tip: You can use the package announcement and DHL shipment tracking to choose a desired location or neighbor until 00:00 a.m. before the day of the planned delivery and also postpone the delivery day by up to 6 days.
7. Do I really need it?
The carbon cost of online-shopping also depends on whether there is a return or not. The right to return is important, but in Germany almost every sixth parcel is being returned. In 2018 that was 280 million parcels returned countrywide! This absurdly high number represents an additional burden for people and the environment. So make sure you choose your orders wisely. Collect as much information as possible before buying, get advice via email if necessary and only buy when you are satisfied with the product. This is exactly what Conflictfood customers are already doing, the return rate is 0.1 percent!So if you want to do your part and reduce your personal impact on the environment – take your time to make considered decisions on who you’re purchasing from, their stance on sustainability and think twice before hitting the pay now button. Last but not least, a big thank you to all parcel deliveries, warehouse employees and all those who make our deliveries possible – you are great!