We can all recognize the fact that our online shopping-obsessed culture is not healthy for the environment. Every year, we add more and more packaging, e-waste, and barely-used products to our landfills, and there is no end in sight. It’s easy to see the ways that in-store shopping affects the environment, but it’s often harder to see how our online shopping habits can often have an even larger environmental impact.
Online shopping involves packaging, shipping, the costs of running servers and offices for the people that facilitate online stores, and we are buying more online than ever before. While all these elements can be small on their own, they add up to significantly increase online shopping’s environmental impact. Here are four ways that you can start to reduce your online carbon footprint.
#1 Buy quality products that last longer
While online shopping does have an environmental impact, one of the easiest ways to start reducing your carbon footprint online is to simply place less orders. Many of the products we buy are low cost, low quality products that we have to replace fairly quickly when they inevitably live out their short, useful lives.
This cycle of buying, throwing away, and replacing, is a huge contributor to the carbon footprint of online shopping and the growing waste problem our world faces. When you buy higher quality products less frequently, it also allows you to bundle orders together and save on packaging and shipping costs to further reduce your digital carbon footprint. Oftentimes, the difference between something that works and something you enjoy just means spending time doing a bit more research and choosing a purchase based on factors besides the lowest price.
In the long run, it’s better for you and for the planet to own a few high-quality goods that provide value instead of a bunch of inexpensive things that just end up being frustrating and contribute to growing landfills. This is also a great way to support small businesses and makers, who care deeply about the quality of what they make. That way, you end up with something really unique that is going to enhance your life for years to come while mitigating your impact on the environment.
#2 Reduce impulse purchases that will probably end up being thrown away
Online shopping has made quick impulse purchases incredibly easy to make. The journey from wanting something, to finding it quickly online, and then buying it is incredibly short. Many sites offer options like one-click orders and attractive discount codes if you make a decision to purchase on the spot. In fact, more and more stores are leveraging e-commerce tools to automatically send you emails or show you pop-ups on their sites when you add something to your cart and don’t go to check out.
Instead of shopping based on a limited time discount or just for fun, shop intentionally when you have a need. Much of what we buy ends up being based on whims or things that catch our eyes on social media, instead of being things that we really need. The things we buy should add value to our lives and spark joy years to come.
Doing research on what the best product to buy to fit a specific need that you have also helps build a habit of making informed and intentional purchasing decisions instead of just buying the cheapest and most convenient option. Impulse purchases are a significant contributor to online carbon footprints, and are rarely the best option or don’t work out as well as we think they will. Buying less puts a very large dent in the online carbon footprint that we create. The less we buy, the more we reduce the carbon being created and released into the environment, and that’s great for everyone in the long run.
#3 Purchase from brands that practice sustainability whenever possible
The carbon footprint of what we buy online also extends to the practices of the company that both made and sold the purchased item. More companies are seeking to make changes to their supply chains and production processes to create less waste and more responsibly leverage the Earth’s resources. It doesn’t take very much time to research companies ahead of time, and shop with brands that make an effort to reduce their environmental impact.
As an added bonus, many companies that fit into this category also make high quality products that will last much longer than cheap ones, and will be much more enjoyable to use. It always feels better to purchase from a company that cares about what they make and how they make it, instead of buying something that was created purely to make money with as little effort as possible. Brands like CoalaTree Organics, Hydro Flask, and Nomadik all make high quality products with a minimal impact on the environment.
#4 Download the EcoCart Chrome Extension to make your online orders carbon neutral
By adding the EcoCart chrome extension to your browser, every time you make a purchase online, you can easily help to reduce and offset your carbon footprint for that order. All you have to do is shop how you normally would, and whenever you’re on a participating website, click “Make My Order Carbon Neutral” on the EcoCart popup and you’re done!
EcoCart will do the rest of the work for you (for free!) and you can rest easy knowing that you’re doing your part to offset your digital carbon footprint. EcoCart will donate to different carbon offset projects around the world, that help reduce the carbon footprint of online shopping at no extra cost to you. You can also browse for participating online stores through the Chrome extension and find new brands and stores that you can shop at while also reducing your online carbon footprint.
Small steps add up to big change!
Reducing your carbon footprint can often feel like an overwhelming task, especially with intangible climate change contributors like online shopping. It often seems like it takes too much time, costs too much money, and probably won’t make that big of a difference in the long run.
However, the way that we start creating sustainable habits in our lives is by making the small easy steps that add up to start creating a meaningful difference in the world. We can encourage friends and family to join the carbon neutral movement using tools like EcoCart that take the work and frustration out of combatting the environmental impact of online shopping.