Online Shopping: Is It Sustainable or Not?

There’s no doubt that online shopping is convenient. Thanks to technological advancements, you can now shop from wherever you are and have it delivered straight to your door. However, do you ever wonder if online shopping is sustainable?

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When exploring the sustainably of online shopping, it’s important to look at factors such as transportation, packaging, and returns.  Some argue that online shopping can be more sustainable because, with online shopping, one van delivering 50 packages is more sustainable than 50 people driving to the store. While that may be true, other factors also have to be considered. Let’s further examine the factors.


Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions. Many people don’t realize this but when you purchase an item online it travels from far and goes through a number of processes to get to your door.  In each of those stages, the product has to be transported to the next process and during each process, carbon emissions are released. However, many online retailers are investing in more energy-efficient fuel that is more eco-friendly.


Many online retailers tend to use excessive packaging to protect products, most of which will end up in a landfill. Most retailers use plastic for their packaging, which is not good for the environment because, firstly plastic is not bio-degradable and according to studies, 91 % of plastic doesn’t get recycled, it gets sent to landfills or ends up in the ocean.



Unlike physical stores, when shopping online, customers can’t try on items to check the quality and if it fits, so therefore returns are more likely to be higher for online shopping. When customers return products, the carbon footprint of that item increases because it is transported back to the warehouse, and in most cases to the landfill.  About 20% of online returns end up in landfills because retailers are not able to resell them.  

There are several benefits that come with online shopping, however, it also leaves a huge carbon footprint that can negatively impact the environment.  As much as online retailers are responsible for minimizing their carbon footprint, as buyers, we also have to play our part and try to shop online sustainably.


Macgilp, R. 2020. What Does Online Shopping During Lockdown Mean for the Environment? [online] Available at: [Accessed on 5 June 2022]