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Sustainable shopping: 3 ways to reduce your online carbon bill


James Chin Moody

Online shopping is damaging the environment. We asked Sendle CEO James Chin Moody to explain what we can do about it.

Shopping online is popular for a reason - it's fast, simple and usually more affordable than heading into a physical store.

However, many of us don't realise the negative impact it can have on the environment.

With every online purchase and parcel shipped, there is increased packaging waste and carbon dioxide emitted in transport and delivery.

In fact, the global shipping and logistics industry currently accounts for a whopping 17% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

This is expected to increase, with an estimated 36% more delivery trucks to be on the roads by 2030 – and more packing waste.

If current trends continue, it's predicted that there will be over 11 billion tonnes of plastic waste in landfill by 2050.

While businesses need to be held accountable for their carbon footprint, our choices as consumers can also make a difference.

The good news is that online shopping doesn't have to cost the earth.

One of the reasons I started Sendle was to help reduce the emissions in this industry by giving both businesses and consumers a zero-carbon way to send and receive parcels.

As it's grown, we've all learned more about the impact we can have. So here are some practical ways to start reducing your environmental impact today:

1. Think before you shop and limit your returns

Before you purchase something, ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" And if so, have you spent some time on the website making sure whatever it is you're purchasing is the right product for you?

For example, if it's clothing, have you measured yourself and checked the finer details to ensure it's the best fit for you? If it's new furniture, like a TV unit or lounge chair, have you measured the space in your house to ensure it will fit?

The reason for this step is that, while generous return policies are great for customers, they're not so great for the environment.

If you buy 5 items but only keep 1, that's up to 8 unnecessary shipments and carbon emissions entering the atmosphere.

Of course, sometimes mistakes happen and items need to be returned for reasons beyond your control. But the aim here is to start practising more mindfulness when online shopping.

The more thought that goes into your purchases, the better the product and hopefully the less amount of returns you need to make.

2. Shop slower

Instant gratification is a core feature of ecommerce. Let's face it – we do love fast shipping and are often willing to pay a little more for it when we need it.

However, if you'd like to reduce the impact of shopping online, one of the easiest changes you can make today is choosing slower shipping when you get to the checkout. This gives carriers the opportunity to consolidate orders more effectively and to use trucks rather than shipping by air.

Sometimes you may not realise until 2 days before your child's birthday party that you need 10 pink flamingos for the yard and that's totally fine.

But when you're not in a hurry, plan ahead so that you can choose the slowest shipping option.

Over time, you'll find slower shipping rewarding, financially speaking too. If you save $5 each week by choosing slower shipping options, that's over $250 a year back in your pocket.

3. Support businesses with sustainability practices

Find businesses to shop from that share your same care for the planet and are doing what they can to reduce their environmental impact.

Supporting eco-friendly businesses that are certified by a third party means you can shop online and know that your purchase does not have a negative impact on the planet.

Here are some great ways to find eco-friendly businesses that share your values:

  • B Corps: There are thousands of businesses around the world that, like Sendle, have met extremely high environmental, social and legal standards to earn B Corp certification. You can find them using this excellent search page. A few well-known Aussie brands such as Stone & Wood, 4 Pines, Aesop and bassike are all B Corps.
  • 1% for the Planet: Founded on the simple concept that companies should take responsibility for protecting natural resources, 1% for the Planet has already raised over $585 million to support environmental nonprofits. Its website also has a search page and map.
  • Fairtrade: You probably associate Fairtrade with food, but its shopping directory includes clothing and textiles too. By choosing Fairtrade-certified products, you're making an ethical and ecological choice.
  • EcoCart: Any ecommerce store can easily add carbon-neutral shopping with EcoCart. It calculates the environmental impact of products in the cart and then gives you the option to purchase carbon credits to make the order carbon-neutral. You can also install the EcoCart Chrome extension to easily find participating merchants.

These changes might seem small, but our choices have more impact than we realise. ecommerce is here to stay so it's important that we consider the impact of our own online shopping habits. The power is literally in our hands.

James Chin Moody is co-founder and CEO of Sendle, a 100% carbon-neutral delivery service. He has a PhD in innovation theory from the Australian National University and has been a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Councils for over 10 years. He has served on advisory boards for companies such as Westpac Bank and General Electric, and government boards such as the National Australia Day Council, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australia Indonesia Institute.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article (which may be subject to change without notice) are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Finder and its employees. The information contained in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, investment advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort. Neither the author nor Finder has taken into account your personal circumstances. You should seek professional advice before making any further decisions based on this information.

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