Opinion: How to reduce the impact of your online purchases


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By Jeremy Williams

I’ve been writing about the environmental impact of online shopping lately, and some of the technologies that could reduce emissions. There are things we can do ourselves too. Here are some ideas, and if you’ve got any suggestions of your own, add them in the comments section below.

  • Buy online when you need to. But if you can pick up what you need from shops without driving to them, choose that route instead.
  • Since each one is going to be its own delivery, place larger orders, rather than lots of smaller ones. If you have the option to get everything in one shipment, tick it.
  • Be patient – research shows that next day or two-day deliveries have higher footprints. If companies have more time, they can send trucks out full and lower the carbon per delivery. Apparently, the people most likely to order next day deliveries are men aged 16-24, so slow down boys.
  • Make sure your delivery gets to you. If a courier can’t deliver your parcel, they have to make a second or third visit, adding more time on the road. Arrange a safe place to leave a parcel if you’re out, or have a neighbour sign for it. Besides, couriers only get paid for deliveries, and they’re already underpaid. You’ll be doing them a favour, and you’ll be less likely to find your parcel on the roof.
  • Try stuff on first. The fashion sector has the highest rate of returns in e-commerce, with one in four items returned. You can never quite tell how clothes are going to fit, so it’s worth buying them in person, or buying from companies you know well.
  • Sainsbury’s offer a ‘green delivery‘ option for their grocery deliveries. When you place your order, you can see when there are vans in your area, allowing them to double up. Other supermarkets may offer this too, I haven’t used them all. It would be good to see more initiatives like this.
  • If you’re a big online shopper, take a moment to tell your favourite companies that you’re interested in greener delivery options. The market is currently focused on delivering stuff faster, which will make things worse. If we want companies to offer a slower, more environmentally friendly service, we’ll have to tell them.
  • Finally, and you knew I’d land it here – just buy less stuff. Or at least keep interrogating your shopping desires. Could you borrow what you need instead? Can you push your old model a little longer, or repair it? Can you make it yourself? Or perhaps you don’t need it at all. As Thoreau put it, a person “is rich in proportion to the number of things which they can afford to let alone.”

Originally published on Make Wealth History.

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