Environmental impact of online shopping

Environmental impact of online shopping

Over the past few decades, the way people shop for products has significantly changed. People used to buy goods and services at local markets, shops, streets, or departmental stores. However, today the number of people purchasing products online has increased as they can order whatever product they want at their doorstep with just one click.

Today, one out of seven sales is made online and this trend is likely to continue growing as companies and brands compete to improve their internet shopping experience. So, what is the environmental impact of online shopping?

Unfortunately, online shopping isn’t as green as you think. From manufacturing and packaging to shipping and delivering products around the world, online shopping is currently responsible for a major portion of global emissions.


The online shopping addiction that modern consumers have is badly affecting the planet. As it grows, so do ecological issues. The effects of online shopping are seen all around the world. Packaging or over-packaging products contributes majorly to carbon dioxide emissions from generating plastic, polluting the environment, and adding an increasing amount of waste to dumping grounds. 

Shipping Products

Shipping products all around the world is responsible for generating a considerable sum of carbon dioxide emissions. In 2020 alone, the shipping and return of goods accounted for 37 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions.

The main problem is that consumers want their products delivered right to their doorstep. According to estimates, delivery vehicles will likely increase by 36 percent, reaching about 7.2 million vehicles by 2030. This will increase the amount of emissions and number of commutes, as vehicles will take longer to travel due to traffic.

The main problem is fast shipping. New technologies develop every year, improving the transportation of products and delivering them as fast as possible to the customer. Nowadays, people have begun requesting same-day or instant deliveries.  When a customer requests fast delivery, the emissions generated are greater than those generated by shopping in person. This is because delivery companies cannot afford to wait for all the goods to reach before shipping them. Even with a one or two-day shipping window, these companies are forced to send their vehicles that are filled at only half their capacity- which generates more traffic and emissions.

Shipping is not the only problem. Due to the ongoing trend, more online retailers offer options to their customers to send back the products easily and mostly for free. The return rates of fashion products have significantly increased by more than 30 percent of all purchased goods. According to a study on consumer behaviour, around 79 percent want free return shipping, and about 92 percent will likely purchase products again if the product is easy to return. Things like these encourage companies to offer such options.


Online shopping has brought more disadvantages than advantages. The environmental impact of online shopping cannot be ignored. Today, nearly all consumers choose convenience over principles. Even though companies try to become more sustainable in their production, packaging, and shipping, these changes alone cannot solve the issue entirely.

Consumers are the only ones that can change this. It is their decisions and behaviour that shape this industry. Therefore, to reduce the environmental impact of online shopping, there needs to be a mind shift from the producer’s and consumer’s sides.

Leave a Reply