‘Tis the season for giving!  For many of us this may mean trips to brick and mortar stores to select the perfect gift, for others shopping online is the preferred method.  Have you ever wondered about the environmental impact of online shopping

How does it stack up against a trek to the mall or other local stores?

There is no quick and easy answer to this question because it involves so many variables.  Chances are, if you live in a suburban or rural area where you have to travel considerable distances to shop, online shopping makes sense.  One study found that online shopping consumed an average of 30 percent less energy than traditional, brick-and-mortar shopping. Most likely, this is due largely to the limitations present in driving to a store, such as paying for gas and carrying your purchases to and from the car. But that study also conceded that there was significant uncertainty and variability in their analysis, especially regarding transport to the retail store (fuel economy, trip length, purchases per trip, etc.).

Another study contends that shopping online has a greater impact on the environment, when considering the following factors: 

• Many people do not drive alone, but go shopping with others, hence total purchases are higher per trip, thereby reducing miles driven per item.
• Shoppers often engage in other activities while at the mall, so miles traveled can’t be assigned only to shopping.
• A lot more goods purchased online get returned, which requires repackaging and shipping (33 percent compared with just 7 percent from stores).
• Online products often require a whole lot more packaging.
If online shopping is your preferred method there are a few things you can consider to lessen the impact on the environment:
• Purchase from eco-friendly retailers.
• Do not ask for same-day or next-day shipping.
• Purchase more than one item at a time.
• Ask for eco-friendly packaging.
• If you are uncertain about clothing size skip online shopping and visit the store to try the item on. This reduces the need to return the item which adds to the energy footprint.
• Heavy items or items that require additional protective packaging are best purchased at a local store.

Ultimately, though, it’s we as the customers who will make the decisions that will determine which method of getting the product is better.  So, if you want to go shopping the old school way, share the trip with a friend or two and maybe even take the bus. If you want to buy online, checkout some of our staff’s favorite environmentally friendly online stores:
Earthsider     https://earthsider.com
EarthHero     https://earthhero.com
Eartheasy     https://eartheasy.com
Life Without Plastic     https://lifewithoutplastic.com
Mightynest     https://mightynest.com
Tentree     https://www.tentree.com
Meg C Jewelry Gallery     https://megcgallery.com
Pet Wants Lexington     https://petwantslex.com
4-Legger     https://www.4-legger.com
Ten Thousand Villages     https://www.tenthousandvillages.com