So there you are seated in front of your computer, scrolling and scrolling and ha! You finally found that perfect item! One-click and with an express fee or membership, the option to get your online purchases delivered to you the very next day.
With just an extra $1, many of us would rather get our order the very next day instead of a week’s wait. This is the juncture where we might have opted for the rushed delivery even though we could have waited those extra few days. Did you know, within Singapore itself, the number of users of E-commerce is expected to amount to 4.4m by 2024? In a flourishing industry like E-commerce, even those simple clicks for your online purchases add up. While it may not seem like it, in reality, we are creating a big impact on our environment with that one.
The Difference Between Standard Shipping And Rushed Shipping
To understand the scale of an impact we are leaving on the environment, we first need to put delivery services into perspective. Delivery services are like buses for our purchases. The longer the bus waits at each stop, the more passengers will board the bus. As such, with lesser people using private transport, it decreases the carbon footprint generated. However, if the passengers were rushing, they will opt for private transport instead. Similarly, the longer our orders take to reach us, the higher the chances of taking public transport instead of private transport. This was evident from an MIT study which compared carbon emissions of traditional shopping, online shopping, online shopping that is rushed. 
According to a report by three environmental NGOs, China’s e-commerce and express delivery sectors used a mass total of 9.4 million tons of packing materials in 2018, while the courier sector produced an estimated 13 million tons of carbon emissions. It was also reported that both sectors churn out an estimated 41.3 million tons of packaging annually by 2025. Who would have expected your online purchases to cause so much waste?
That is the difference that one click and a few days of waiting can make. While it may not seem like a lot from an individual’s perspective, E-commerce is a fast-growing industry in today’s day and age after all.
What About Shipping vs Shopping?
One may wonder; the carbon footprint of an online shopper, when not rushed, is lower than a traditional shopper. Does that mean we should keep all our shopping on online platforms? Is that the only way to reduce our carbon footprint? Not exactly! Everything has its pros and cons; online shopping and offline shopping are no exception. Offline shopping reduces carbon footprint due to its physical presence of a store and customers.
With physical stores, we’re able to see, feel, smell or even taste (if edible) the item we wish to buy. Besides, we can ask for a real-life demonstration if needed. By doing so, we’re able to have better sensing of what deal we’re getting into. This reduces the chances of us buying a product that does not fully satisfy our needs and as a result, returning the item.
On the other hand, returning is a relatively common practice in online shopping, increasing the carbon footprint from transporting the items. After which, if defective, the returned items are often discarded by the sellers. The reason being it is a lot cheaper to throw the faulty items away rather than fixing them. Considering today’s competitive, profit-driven world, sellers would try to cut all costs possible. To prevent such situations, the best we can do as consumers is to make our purchases wisely.
As a store that promotes sustainable living and aims to ease users into a low waste lifestyle, we try our very best to ensure we incur minimal carbon footprint as well.
Here’s what we do in TSP to reduce waste from your online purchases:
- Collect unwanted packaging from others & gather all packaging we receive from deliveries
- Reuse packaging, magazines to pack products
- Use scrap fabric to tie products up as a set
- Only provide bag/packets if requested by the customer
- In place of tape, we use unwanted stickers and washi tape (the kind that does not contain plastic!)
- Provide a self-collection option
- 80% of our items are package free or minimally packaged
What Can We Do To Manage Our Online Purchases?
Other than avoiding rushed deliveries, we can opt for self-collection when it is in walking distance as well! That way, we can reduce the carbon footprint of packaging and transport as well.
Buy only if you are certain that, you need the product in your lifestyle. When in doubt, research is key! Search for reviews on the products and try finding physical stores to have better sensing of the items you wish to purchase. Similarly, leaving honest reviews on online stores are important as well. By adding value to others’ research, your reviews help others make wiser purchasing choices.
Also, shop second-handed whenever you can. Our purchases do not always have to be new! By shopping second-hand, you can bring back an item that you need while preventing a functioning item from going to waste.
Last but not least, re-evaluate if you need the items. Are you buying the item just because you saw it in an advertisement? Or is it on sale? Did your favourite celebrity endorse the item and now you want to buy it? Many a time, we tend to believe that we need an item even though we do not have realistic plans of using it. This is the result of effective marketing.
Did you know that we face more than 5,000 ad messages a day? To avoid impulse buying, we need to keep our thoughts and emotions straight. Whether the item you are considering is on sale or is advertised by your idol, reasoning with yourself on how that item will benefit your lifestyle is important. On the other hand, you can consider repurposing what you already have! That way you can eliminate a new purchase and save money. After all, not buying any new items at all produces the least amount of carbon footprint!
At the end of the day, it is a matter of making that choice and making it a wise one. By being more informed about our purchases, stores and our carbon footprint as well, you can make a difference in the impact you are leaving behind. So let us make our purchases count!