How to Shop Online While Still Being Green

by eco18

Most of us love shopping online.  The selection is often better than at brick and mortar stores, and you have the added convenience of having your purchases delivered right to your mailbox or front door. If you’re trying to live a green – or greener – life, is online shopping really the best choice? Let’s take a look at where online shopping is better for the environment, where it is worse and what you can do to stay green while you’re shopping online.

Be Careful Where You Shop

When you go shopping online, where do you usually click to first?  For many shoppers, the answer is commercial giants like Amazon, Wal-Mart or Google. While these big sellers might offer the most options or the fastest delivery, they aren’t the greenest options available. These big companies care more about their bottom line than caring for the environment.

Thankfully there are tools that can help you find a better place to shop.  If you use Google Chrome as your primary browser, consider installing the Done Good browser extension. This extension helps you make eco-friendly brand choices by showing you alternatives when you’re shopping on big names like Amazon. It also helps you shop to your causes – whether you only support vegan products or want to avoid companies that use slave labor to manufacture their goods.

Opt for Eco Friendly Packaging

One of the worst waste points when it comes to shopping – whether you’re buying things online or in a brick and mortar storefront – is packaging. Plastic, cardboard and Styrofoam are all used in packaging, especially for online orders, and most of it isn’t biodegradable.

Many online sellers offer an option for standard or eco-friendly packaging.  Eco-friendly alternatives are either made from recycled paper or plastic, or are biodegradable – or both, depending on the seller.

Be Patient

Amazon Prime and other quick-shipping options capitalize on the human need to have everything now. While it’s great to get everything delivered quickly, it can be worse for the environment. Instead, be patient. Fast shipping, especially when you’re ordering something that comes from overseas, can be expensive and also require putting your package on a plane.

It might be hard to be patient, but in the long run, it will end up being better for the environment. It’s hard to order locally when you’re shopping online, but being patient can be a great way to get all of the cool stuff that you’ve found on the internet while still being green.

Buy More Than One Thing

This can be difficult if you’re only looking for one specific thing, but if you’re stocking up or buying a number of different things from one seller can keep your carbon footprint down. You won’t have a bunch of different boxes or packaging to deal with, and you can save money on shipping costs.  Many sellers offer free shipping if your purchase is above a certain dollar amount, so lumping everything into one order could save you even more.

Shopping online is fantastically convenient but you need to be careful to ensure that you’re not generating undue waste or inadvertently increasing your carbon footprint.  Be patient – don’t use same say or next-day shipping – and opt for eco-friendly packaging instead of traditional plastic or Styrofoam. These aren’t biodegradable and often aren’t even recyclable.

Overall, shopping online ends up being better for the environment in the long run though – it eliminates the need for driving all over town to research products or compare prices.  When you add this to the use of reusable or recyclable packaging, the benefits are compounded.  You can still order your favorite clothes, teas or other products online without worrying about not living a green life.


Emily is a sustainability writer and advocate for eco-friendly living. You can check out more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter.

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