Eco-Friendly Shipping: Everything You Need to Know to Make Sustainable Shipping Choices.
Updated: Jun 10
The Environmental Impact and Global Shipping.
Next day deliveries are great! More even, tracking your orders and seeing every time stamp to see exactly where your product is, just builds up the excitement. In a matter of no time there is your favourite person at the front door, yes, the delivery person with a big smile and pleasantly hands over your package.
You’re probably thrilled by the fact you’ve opted to offset your carbon footprint by choosing plastic-free packaging or at least more sustainable packaging. This is all worthwhile, however, shipping has a bigger environmental impact, read on to find out how.
The great thing about modern technology is that we have more shipping options at our disposal. Further, products can be shipped in various forms and methods, and we all want our packages sent and received promptly.
How much carbon emissions are emitted from shipping?
It depends on many factors, such as emissions by transport mode, if you opt for next-day delivery, whether the product is locally sourced, and the list goes on. Just to put into perspective, in 2018 global shipping contributed to 1,056 million tons of CO₂ emissions, now compare that to 2012 which was 962 million tons of CO₂ emissions. However, on a positive note, emissions for 2020 are predicted to be a lot lower due to the pandemic and lock-downs imposed by most countries at different stages in 2020.
Although this is great for the Earth, as countries start to ease lock-downs and open up their economies, we will see carbon emissions reach back to their high levels. We can still do our part by doing research on the products we buy and choosing to shop consciously. Luckily, mylilEarth helps you with your journey to a zero-waste lifestyle and by subscribing you'll be the first to know about tips and tricks to living sustainably.
We can further break down 1,056 million tons of CO₂ emissions by transport type as shown in this chart. There is no surprise that 74% of emissions come from road vehicles and of that 29 % is from freight transportation.
What is the environmental impact of online shopping?
Online shopping will certainly reduce your carbon footprint, in contrast to driving to the stores. Also, consider other factors such as how many stores you’ll visit and whether you need to do the shopping for your household. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean by shopping online you’ll be landing yourself in carbon-neutral heaven.
It’s midweek and you’re probably working from home and stuck in a morning Zoom call that isn’t going anywhere. So, what do you do? I don’t know about you, but I’d be doing some online shopping and in a couple of clicks my delivery is on its way. I saw some swanky looking headphones and without really thinking about my CO₂ footprint I clicked order. Can you relate?
On average next-day deliveries cost the Earth 2kg CO₂e per item purchased.
Let’s look at how much the delivery of my headphone is going to cost the Earth. Well, it depends on a number of factors. I opted for rush delivery as I was eager to get them the next day, in doing so I contributed 1.8kg C0₂e for that one item. Now if I opted for standard slower delivery that would come down to 1.4kg C0₂e. This number may seem rather low, but CO₂ emissions emitted per online shopper will be drastically different, as we all have different shopping habits.
Here are 3 things you can do right now to reduce your CO₂ emissions whilst shopping online:
1. How urgently do you need it?
If it’s not essentials (i.e. medication, food etc) then the chances are, you don’t urgently need it. When you select next day delivery, most likely the item will be delivered in a partially empty van. You can offset your CO₂ footprint by choosing a later delivery date. If you do need it urgently consider borrowing it from a friend, or go down to your local thrift shop.
2. Do your research on the product.
Check where the product is manufactured and supplied from. For instance, you saw an amazing outfit online but it’s made somewhere in Asia, once that product is dispatched it would have already contributed hundreds-thousand tons of CO₂ emissions as it had to travel from far. Etsy.com and bonanza.com are great sites that offer a handmade, bespoke range of products from home essentials, health & beauty and fashion. And the great thing is you’ll be supporting local artisans and businesses, at the same time you'll know exactly what goes into making your products and where they are coming from.
3. Say NO to excessive packaging.
Having our favourite products delivered on time has a devastating impact on the environment, but excessive packaging is something you’ll need to fight off to reduce your CO₂ footprint. Firstly, search for products without plastic packaging and if that is a struggle message the seller requesting not to include plastic-packing.
If you don't get a reply or they refuse to use plastic-free packaging, look up unboxing videos as this would give you an indication of how the product is packaged and it's a great way to find out more about the product before you spend your hard earn cash. You could also check out your local thrift shop or other stores locally to see if you can find a similar product.