Can you keep a secret? We love online shopping — especially from sustainable brands! And with the ever-growing variety of ecommerce shops offering ethical online shopping, it’s easier than ever to make eco-conscious consumer choices.
We’re not going to lie; the impact of ecommerce on the environment can be significant. From manufacturing to packaging to global shipping networks — that can add up to a lot of carbon emissions!
So as a climate-considerate individual, how can you shop more sustainably online? Don’t worry; we’re here to help. We’ve compiled a list of 21 green, online stores and a host of other tips to make your ecommerce adventures as climate-friendly as possible.
Let’s start with a tour of sustainable online marketplaces.
What is a sustainable online marketplace?
Sustainable marketplaces are online shops where you can buy fair trade and certified sustainable products. Instead of spending your Saturday searching the web for sustainable shops, you can find everything you need in one place. And, when you pair that with eco-friendly delivery? Name a more perfect match!
We have a list of 12 brands with a recycling program if you are looking for pre-loved and sustainable marketplace inspiration.
Why support a marketplace dedicated to sustainability?
If you’ve ever worried about the working conditions of the people who make the products you use or whether the raw materials will be around for another generation — a sustainable marketplace is the place for you. It feels great to know your purchasing power is supporting companies with values that match yours (and are reflected in their business practices).
Wondering where to shop sustainably?
When you shop in person, buying groceries in bulk is a great way to reduce waste, especially plastic packaging. Bulk stores are popping up everywhere; find a zero-waste store near you. To find more eco-friendly shops in your neighborhood, try putting “sustainable stores near me” into the map app on your phone — you might find some hidden gems!
For ecommerce, there are more and more sustainable DTC brands (direct-to-consumer) that cut out the waste (and inflated cost) of having a brick-and-mortar store. Another bonus is that they retain more control over their ecological impact as they control the packaging and transportation of the goods as they make their way to you.
Another option for more sustainable shopping is to look for carbon offset companies that work with retailers to make their operations more efficient and carbon neutral. Then, no matter how often you shop, you can be more sustainable by offsetting the carbon from your purchases.
How shoppers can make an impact
You’re probably thinking, is online shopping sustainable? Well, it can be! Let’s review some tips you can use to reduce your online shopping impact on the environment,
Give up on returns
The downside to online shopping is the return process. Discovering the sweater you bought doesn’t fit is a bummer, and on top of that, thinking about all the carbon created by return shipping is even worse. Instead of shipping merch back, consider regifting or reselling it instead. Sure, things didn’t go your way this time, but on the bright side, you have a backup birthday gift if you need one in a pinch.
If you want to recoup the cash, an online resale platform like ThreadUP could be the answer.
Give up plastic packaging
It’s no secret that plastics are a major polluter, but did you know packaging materials account for 45% of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by ecommerce? Skip the plastics for a more sustainable online shopping experience. Look for shops that ship in biodegradable packaging instead of single-use plastics.
Avoid buying stuff you don’t need
We’ve all done it — impulse bought an ugly Christmas sweater for a party, and it ended up languishing in the back of our closets. Or snagged that “hilarious” novelty mug for a family member. While you should never deprive the world of your sense of humor, cutting out gag gifts and single-use purchases will help your bank account and the environment.
Be patient: Choose slower shipping and delivery options
We know part of the thrill of online shopping is getting that satisfying unboxing experience as soon as your package arrives. But, with transportation being the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the US, a slower shipment option is better for the environment. And they aren’t that much slower, right? You still get your unboxing moment, just in 3-5 business days.
Group your purchases
Similar to slower shipping, waiting and buying all the items you need from a shop at one time is greener than having multiple shipments of individual items. We can’t always control it when companies ship each item separately, but choosing the slower but complete shipping option is another way to be intentional about sustainable shopping online.
Choose minimal packaging
Sustainable products in minimal packaging are a sustainability dream! Businesses are swapping out the bulky boxes for more bespoke packaging with molded pulp inserts for security. Whenever you are able, choose products that come in less packaging (goodbye shrinkwrap) to boost your eco-friendly shopping impact.
Here’s a moving hack – hold on to any ecommerce boxes and packing paper or bubble wrap to box up your belonging when you move. Moving can be costly, so reusing where you can save you some cash and hopefully some headaches!
That brown craft paper many companies have adopted instead of styrofoam makes sturdy and minimalist wrapping paper for gifts or doodling paper for the little ones.
Greenwashing is a marketing tactic where companies use the language and imagery of eco-consciousness to appear greener (often literally) than they are. It’s pretty insidious as these brands exploit vague terms and tout their products to be “produced sustainably” without any transparency into their business processes.
Fortunately, consumers are savvy and have caught on to these dubious claims of sustainable products. Wondering what to look for? You can spot a greenwashing campaign if the company:
- Makes unsupported claims about its “ethical” product sourcing
- Creates green campaigns despite being a major polluter
- Misrepresents data or outright lies about its environmental impact
- Uses overly scientific claims that are hard to understand
- Lacks transparency into their overall sustainability plans
Brands that actually offer sustainable products are happy to provide the proof, as they know consumers — especially younger ones — will pay more for ethical goods from sustainable companies.
Maybe you hear about greenwashing and wonder, what fashion brands are actually sustainable? You can find ethical and carbon-neutral fashion brands with a bit of research. Let’s get into how authentic and sustainable brands show their legitimacy with certifications.
Look for third-party badges
Many organizations provide an ethical rating of companies or certify that a company is sustainable. Not all certifications are made equal, but here are a few common ones that are credible and transparent:
- B Corporation certification
- The Carbon Trust Standard
- The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
- The Rainforest Alliance
- Environmental Working Group (EWG) Verified
- Global Organic Textile Standard
- Fairtrade International
- Climate Neutral Certified
If you see any of these badges or icons, you can be confident that your purchase is sustainable!
Use carbon-offsetting companies or plugins
One of the amazing things about ecommerce is the innovative new ways brands reduce their carbon footprint. There are now sustainability apps for ecommerce that empower consumers to offset the carbon created by their purchases.
EcoCart is a sustainability plugin combining storytelling, analysis dashboards, and product life cycle analysis into carbon offsetting, giving businesses a customizable experience end to end. And as the shopper, it’s a click of a button to offset the carbon from your order.
Are you an ecommerce brand curious to learn more about how you can offer a more sustainable online shopping experience? Find out how our carbon offset Shopify app can integrate into your ecommerce cart!
We wrote about sustainable online shopping marketplaces earlier; now, are you ready to meet some?
Sustainable stores you can support
Best for a green backyard or gardening…
Biome is an Australian-based sustainable marketplace with 5 physical stores and an online shop with thousands of vetted eco-friendly products. Don’t worry if you’re not in Aus; Biome ships internationally for a flat rate. Check them out for all your gardening needs, composting and worm farming, seeds, beekeeping, pollinator kits, and non-toxic pest control. Grow the eco-friendly garden of your dreams.
If you’re in the UK, Ethical Superstore needs to be on your shopping list. They stock certified Fairtrade, Organic, FSC, and Cruelty-Free products in their online marketplace. Visit the garden and outdoor section for solar lighting, picnic supplies, garden accessories, and plants and seeds.
Best for jewelry and accessories…
Immaculate Vegan was founded in the UK, but don’t worry; they ship internationally. This destination for sustainable shopping carries beautiful and classic vegan leather boots and shoes, handbags, and plated gold and sterling silver jewelry for women. In the men’s department, you can find vegan shoes, sandals, boots, crossbody bags and briefcases, and small (vegan) leather goods. They even have tiny little vegan leather shoes for kids.
Fair Trade Winds
Choose from handcrafted jewelry or tote bags from artisans supporting social enterprises on Fair Trade Winds. Not only are the products sustainable and ethically made, but each tote bag purchase also empowers human trafficking survivors.
Best for clothing and fashion…
If you’re looking for where to shop sustainably online, read our 12 Brands with a Recycling Program article. It has something for everyone!
Best for décor…
The Little Market
The Little Market is a little slice of sustainable online shopping heaven. Pick from handmade cotton sarape blankets from Mexico, handwoven baskets handcrafted by artisans in Ghana, home fragrances, planters, vases, and frames. The collections are international, and so is the shipping. Happy shopping!
Handmade fique grass rugs sourced from a family enterprise in Colombia, pillows from a fair trade cooperative in Guatemala, and GOTS-certified organic wool throws are a few sustainable products from DoneGood. You can feel confident as every brand on the site is selected for having good wages, empowered people, and eco-friendly production. Do some good with your dollars.
Best for furniture…
GOODEE is an online marketplace for design enthusiasts from the founders of WANT Les Essentiels. It’s also a B-Corp and Climate-Neutral certified. Oh, there’s more — GOODEE carries furniture from Emeco, Frama, and Skagerak for the scandi-minimalist.
Etsy. Honestly, what else is there to say? It’s Etsy! The global marketplace where you can find anything from anywhere in the world, including vintage, handmade, or upcycled furniture.
Best for groceries…
Find thousands of grocery items vetted for sustainability and social impact online at Hive. With 98% of the items using recyclable, compostable, or tetracycle-able packaging and 100% of carbon created through the brand’s operations and shipping offset using the EcoCart plugin, filling your pantry has never been easier (or greener).
Imperfect Foods delivers imperfect produce that is sustainably sourced and affordable to eco- and cost-conscious consumers across the US. Imperfect food often ends up in landfills as consumers buy the more perfect-looking options. Reducing food waste by buying oblong tomatoes and curved carrots is a simple but impactful way to reduce your carbon footprint — after all, they’re just as delicious!
Azure Standard is another US-based food delivery service, this time focusing on organic, non-GMO, and sustainably grown produce. Buying in-season and locally-grown produce with Azure means you get farm-to-table freshness and more nutritious food that has traveled fewer miles to get to your plate.
Best for home goods…
Check out Made Trade for an impressive array of ethical and sustainable home goods, from holiday décor to duvet covers, to coasters and placemats. Each of the 150+ brands in the marketplace is vetted to ensure safe working conditions, fair wages, and sustainability certifications. All that plus carbon-neutral international shipping means you can shop with peace of mind.
Public Goods creates and sells eco-friendly alternatives to the things we’ll always need to buy for our homes. Invest in plant-based cleaners in refillable containers, banana leather notebooks, organic Turkish cotton bath towels, and even sustainable dog products like 100% compostable poop bags.
Best for personal care and beauty…
On itemerie, you can find beauty products crafted by independent makers that are cruelty-free, non-toxic, zero-waste, and vegan. Their products are made in the US and Canada, and they only ship to these locations to reduce their carbon footprint.
ourCommonplace offers carbon-neutral shipping and returns for their sustainable skincare and makeup products. They also empower shoppers to browse by value, with choices like cruelty-free, ethical, sustainable, and toxic-free. Such an innovative way to source beauty products aligned with your values!
Best Amazon replacement…
Are you still using Amazon subscriptions for your household essentials? Simple Switch can help. You get regular shipments of sustainable products like bamboo toilet paper, laundry detergent, soap, lotion, menstrual products, coffee and tea, hand sanitizer, and much more. Stock up on sustainable supplies and subscribe to never run out again!
The Responsible Shop
Verishop’s The Responsible Shop made our list of Amazon replacements because they have everything, kitchen, dining, home décor, bedroom, bathroom, home office, garden, and even electronics. The only difference is that the products are all from responsible, independent brands.
If you want a plastic-free home, etee is the store for you. Replacing plastic bottles with biodegradable wax pods for soaps, plastic wrap with beeswax wraps, and shampoo bottles with shampoo bars — you get the idea! You can even subscribe to get your household essentials delivered regularly.
Best for second-hand and vintage…
Welcome to Cerqular; a sustainable marketplace for eco-friendly products with verified sellers. There’s something for everyone! Women’s clothing, accessories, and jewelry; men’s clothing and accessories; kids’ clothes and bedding; beauty, electronics, grocery; and even sustainable products for our 4-legged friends.
Food52 Vintage Shop
Food52 Vintage Shop is a fantastic little online green store to find vintage flatware, glasses, and cookware for your eco-friendly kitchen. Visit often — you never know what will end up in the shop.
Best for sustainable and ethical clothing brands…
Ethical bras and undies in an inclusive size range and shipped in eco-friendly packaging? Sign us up! Azura Bay carries lingerie and PJs from brands that are all either certified Fair Trade or employ transparent, ethical practices for safe working environments and fair wages.
Sustainable shopping is easy at GALERIE.LA ! You can shop your values for eco-friendly, ethical, vegan, and recycled clothing and accessories from emerging designers. Even if you’re not in LA, you can discover your next fav eco-friendly brand with international shipping.