Christmas season is now in full swing and therefore it is also that time of year when we consume the most.
Although we know you make a big effort to buy responsibly, we also believe that the lack of information sometimes makes you doubt yourself: Is it better to buy something that is eco-friendly but imported from far away, or a local product that is not particularly green?, ¿Are plastic bags better than paper ones?, Is it more environmentally friendly to buy online or in-store?
It’s just that sometimes it seems that making a responsible purchase requires a comparative data study like those needed for a doctorate thesis.
But of course, we understand you don’t have time or enough motivation to start doing your own research. Therefore to make it easier for you to shop responsibly this Christmas, we have done the work for you in this post. Here we will pick apart what is best for the planet: buying from the comfort of your sofa or heading off to your nearest store.
ONLINE SHOPPING, THE MOST SUSTAINABLE OPTION IF YOU ARE NOT IN A HURRY
This study by the MIT Centre for Transportation and Logistics shows that online purchases have a smaller carbon footprint than those purchases made in an actual shop, as long as the shopper doesn’t resort to practices such as express delivery and frequent returns.
This is so, because most in-store sales have a very high carbon footprint due to the transport required to get the customers to the point of sale.
Meanwhile, contrary to what you might think, the carbon footprint of online purchases is not so high regarding transport, but yes when it comes to packaging: the layers and layers of plastic, the new boxes and the commonly placed samples used by most online shops (in case you are wondering, this is not the case at Sinplástico).
However, if the customer is impatient, by which we mean, they choose express delivery services and/or return products, the emissions associated with online shopping transport sky-rocket, overtaking those of physical stores. In the graph, you can see this illustrated more clearly:
Carbon footprint comparison of a traditional shopper, an online shopper (or cybernaut) and an impatient cybernaut. Source: MIT Centre for Transportation and Logistics.
However, it is important to keep in mind that this study is based on data from the USA, where it is common that the physical shops are found in shopping malls, far away from urban centres so that people can only get to them by car, hence it is normal that the individual transport footprint is so high.
IS SHOPPING ONLINE MORE SUSTAINABLE THAN SHOPPING IN A ACTUAL SHOP? IT DEPENDS…
Therefore, at Sinplástico we believe that if we apply this data to real-life Europe, we can only answer this question if we take into account the following factors: your personal situation, your habits and the store where you do your shopping:
- Your situation: city or country
If you live in an urban environment where it is relatively easy to walk, go by bike or public transport to a local shop, it would be more sustainable for you to buy in actual physical shops. However, if you live in a rural setting and you have to take the car to go shopping, the online option is more environmental in your case.
- Your shopping habits
If you buy online, but you tend to fill your cart to the brim in order to not have to repeat the same purchases (and delivery) on a frequent basis, if you select normal delivery services (not the ultra fast ones) and if you do not shop with the attitude that you can always return it (if it doesn’t fit, you don’t like it or you don’t want it), your online shop will be more eco-friendly. If this is not the case, you are better off shopping in an actual store.
- The store where you shop
Although this is not a factor included in the study, we believe that it is an important one. It is not the same, for example, to shop at Sinplástico, where we use minimum packaging and we reuse our supplier’s boxes to send your orders, reducing the relative footprint associated with packaging, as in a shop that uses kilos and kilos of plastic to send their products.
What’s more, one also needs to take into account the type of products you are purchasing, as a locally made product will always have a smaller footprint, given that it is made sustainably and with materials that respect the planet.
So with all this in mind, we would like to share with you some of our tricks and tips for making your shopping experience (either online or in-store) more sustainable.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR ONLINE PURCHASE MORE SUSTAINABLE
- Group orders: join your nearest responsible consumer group or create one yourself with friends, family members and neighbours in order to make larger orders and thereby avoid multiple deliveries. In addition, in some stores, like ours, you may enjoy additional benefits like discounts and special offers. Visit our Responsible Consumer Group page and we will tell you more.
- Choose regular delivery services: when you choose a normal type of delivery, you give the logistic company time to fill their delivery truck completely. However, if you select an ultra fast delivery the trucks and vans will leave the base with only half a load, this means that to send the same number of parcels, the company has to complete many more trips.
- Specify in the notes/comments section that you do not want any plastic, samples or unnecessary packaging: this way you will avoid the biggest part of the carbon footprint related to online shopping.
- Try to consolidate your shopping at just one e-store: there are just 2 reasons why we at Sinplástico are constantly updating our product range. The first is: that we want to make it easier for you to live a plastic-free life in every way. The second is: that we want to avoid emissions by offering you all the products you need to live a plastic-free lifestyle in a one-stop shop. Apply this criteria to all your online purchases and you will reduce your footprint.
- Don’t buy with the idea that you can always return the product: online returns are turning into a daily occurrence. According to Shopify, 89% of online customers have returned a product in the last 3 years. This means that the emissions associated with one single purchase double. Therefore, at Sinplástico we have decided to not accept free returns, as we believe that when you buy one of our products, you should do it in a well considered manner, knowing it is what you need.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR IN-STORE PURCHASES MORE SUSTAINABLE
- Shop at your local neighbourhood stores instead of in big shopping centres that you have to travel to.
By shopping at the shops that you have near your home, not only will you be supporting the local economy, but you will also avoid the footprint associated with the transport you would need to get to the large shopping centre. And if you don’t have any shops nearby, use public transport rather than the car.
- Check for availability in your local stores
Before buying a product online, check whether there is somewhere in your neighbourhood that sells it. For example, many items from Sinplástico are sold in physical shops. Here you have a list of them.
- You live in a small town? Group purchase what you need
If you live in a rural area and you want to buy from physical shops but you have to use your own car to get there, try to group your purchases together to avoid any unnecessary trips. You can do this once a week or once a month taking advantage of other errands you have to run in these urban areas.
Now you have all the information you need to decide how to shop more sustainably depending on your individual situation, your personal habits and your favourite shops. Together with our top tips you are ready to shop whilst still respecting our beautiful planet.
Remember, this Christmas it is not only important what you buy, but also how you buy it.
Happy responsible holidays!
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