How Environmentally Friendly is Online Shopping?

More and more goods are bought online and delivered to their homes. Online shopping saves you the trip to the shopping center and can be done conveniently from home at any time of the day. Help Tutorials like make online shopping even easier with easy step-by-step help tutorials on how to use online shops like Amazon.

Online shopping is often very practical, but is it also environmentally friendly and resource-saving?

Online shopping: Anytime, anywhere, and sustainable?

Buy online or in-store – the transitions are often fluid. For example, consumers compare prices online but then choose a local store to purchase. Or get information in the store and then buy from the cheapest online provider. In addition to transport and packaging – due to the additional transport costs for the goods – the returns of unsuitable products in particular lead to increased energy and resource consumption. The “Sustainable Consumption” network group of the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations puts the results of corresponding studies for online trade between 32 percent saved and 240 percent higher CO2 emissions compared to stationary trade.

Buying at the click of a mouse reduces the time, physical and financial effort on the one hand. On the other hand, however, this can quickly be canceled out by new consumer demands and bad purchases online. The most diverse forms of online advertising as well as supposedly low prices favor this.

Sustainable fashion can be found online

Digitization can promote connectivity, access to information, and choices. Sustainable shopping – especially clothing – is becoming easier, but can lead to higher and unplanned consumption. Digital platforms facilitate sustainable consumer behavior, like the choice of products that are particularly environmentally friendly and socially responsible in terms of production, use, and disposal. Especially when it comes to clothing, the selection of sustainable fashion in local shops is often very sparse. This means that ordering sustainably certified fashion labels online is indeed more environmentally friendly.

An important criterion for a good ecological balance of clothing is also its longevity. Used textiles are therefore not only an inexpensive and resource-saving alternative for children’s clothing. Digital payment systems and numerous portals make it easier to buy and resell second-hand clothing.

Returns have a negative impact on the climate

Although various studies have been published with different numbers, it is certain that the growth rates in online retail are in the double-digit range every year. The largest sales on the Internet come from clothing, electronics, computers, and shoes, which together make up more than half of total sales.

In addition, many consumers are increasingly returning their online purchases. Clothing is particularly affected. Online shoppers order many items of clothing in multiple sizes to make choices at home. This puts a strain on the environment and also results in higher overall costs for retailers. Economists determined that consumers returned every sixth package in 2018 and almost every second package for clothing. That’s 280 million packages and 487 million articles that generated 238,000 tons of CO2.

Some returned new goods are destroyed: Consumers have control over where and what they order. Especially with products at rock-bottom prices, there is a higher probability that returned items will be destroyed. Because the cheaper an article is, the less worthwhile it is to check it and remarket it (reasons behind the disposal of returns ).

Read also: Moving Company: Sustainable Moving Tips

CO2 emissions from parcels and mountains of rubbish

At the same time, the number of Express and Prime deliveries increases every year. Sending multiple packages for one order to one address also wastes significantly more resources. According to the DHL parcel service, every parcel sent via the Post delivery system causes 500 grams of CO2 emissions, which corresponds to an average distance of around four kilometers by private car.

Parcel shipping means that a particularly large amount of packaging material is used in online retail, and depending on the requirements of the goods there is also additional padding material. According to the Association of Municipal Companies, the composition of the paper and cardboard waste in our waste paper bins is also changing significantly. In the meantime, almost 71 percent of packaging ends up in the waste paper bin and the consumption of packaging waste has increased by 540 percent since 1996 ( Federal Environment Agency ).


To answer the question, is online shopping environmentally friendly and resource-saving? While there are huge benefits that online shopping offers, there is no doubt that it still leaves a huge carbon footprint that can be harmful to the environment. Therefore, the responsibility of minimizing carbon footprint not only lies on the seller but also on the buyer to make online shopping really sustainable.