Impact of online shopping on environment
The way we shop has an impact on our environment. It is generally believed that online shopping is more environmental friendly than customary offline shopping. But it is not as straightforward as it appears. Online shopping, or one-click culture, is fast becoming an integral part of our consumer culture. Undoubtedly, it is convenient, generally secure, and sometimes saves money of consumers by finding bargain prices. All it requires is an internet connection, a debit or credit card and a few mouse clicks. Nearly everything from electronics to groceries is available online. About 30 percent of holiday shopping in America is done online. Online shopping continues to grow at a phenomenal rate. From 2014 to 2019, e-commerce sales ratios nearly tripled globally. In 2018, an estimated 1.8 billion consumers worldwide bought goods online, generating e-retail sales of dollar 2.8 trillion. By 2021, this figure is expected to reach dollar 4.8 trillion.
One main factor responsible for this trend is growing urbanization, with 60 % of people expected to be living in cities by 2030. Other factors include rising purchasing power of the middle class, a widening range of products available online, the emergence of new digital business models and technological advancements allowing for fast and time-bound delivery. But is online shopping more environmental friendly compared to local shopping? It certainly saves energy and petrol because you do not have to go to the store by car or transport. But theoretical environmental benefits of online shopping are offset by variation in consumer behaviour, whether they want faster deliveries, and return what percentage of goods ordered.
How to reduce the environmental impact of online shopping?
Delivery organizations can invest in the zero-emission, predominantly electric vehicles for their home delivery service. In 2017, in the EU, there were six million trucks in use. Nearly all of these (95.5 percent) run on diesel. There is a need to replace diesel trucks by CNG trucks or electric delivery trucks. For non-food home delivery though, the final stage of delivery to the customer is often not managed directly by the retailers, but outsourced to independent couriers, who may not invest in low–emission vehicles. Indeed many couriers are self-employed, using their personal vehicles to deliver packages.
2- Also we need energy efficient buildings and lower food wastage.
3- Non-food deliveries require to be protected by additional packaging like shrink-wrapping, padding and boxing to prevent damage in transit. This results in minimising materials efficiency and maximizing waste .In packaging, local shops generally claim an environmental edge. Same-day and instant delivery are the fastest – growing segments in the last-mile environment , growing 36% and 17% annually , respectively. Amazon, for example, already delivers to 72% of all customers within 24 hours.
4- Next-day or even same-day deliveries means having available stock requiring more space to keep it and more energy to store and move it. For food items, the offer of constant availability results in increased level of food wastage. Rushed packages are also often delivered by planes, which are a lot more carbon-pollution-heavy than trucks and trains. These options lead to separate packages for one order, more packaging waste and more vehicles on the road, choice of relatively less efficient routes (suboptimal transportation) to fulfill orders as fast as possible. This increases carbon emissions generated and consequently, the environmental impact of your online purchases. In standard deliveries, parcels can be transported in optimally loaded lorries. It is a challenge not only for the customers but also for traders and delivery companies. Customers should pick the slowest shipping option, to reduce carbon footprint.
5- There is also a wastage in online shopping because of return of parcels. Since retailers have started offering free (or low-cost) returns, customers have taken advantage of the policy. In Germany, every third online parcel is returned. Customers should avoid unnecessary returns. Returned items’ extra journey may be free for the customer, but it costs the environment. Returned items don’t just go back to the local store or the closest fulfillment centre, they feed into a global logistics system that may take the item to be processed in a country where wages are lower. Customers should avoid unnecessary returns.
6- Also, there is wastage due to missed deliveries.
7. This might take a little bit of extra planning, but it is worth it. By waiting until your online shopping cart is full , rather than ordering item by item , companies will be able to consolidate your delivery into fewer boxes, leading to fewer vehicles needed to transport your package and less overall packaging. Similarly, keeping a running list of things you want to buy and the making one big order once a month will help reduce the number of deliveries needed. This is a great tactic if you can plan ahead, have regular purchases or you want to buy something you don’t need immediately. Buying multiple items from the same seller results in fewer emissions than ordering one at a time can draw down the carbon footprint.
8. A 2018 UPS survey found that 40 percent of Canadians might use both online and offline shopping for the same purchase -- generating emissions from both. For example , they might visit a store to look at a product or try it on and then order it online . Being more mindful of what we buy, how we buy it and whether we really need it, will go a long way. Buy local, use local, recycle more.
The World Economic Forum has suggested 24 ways to reduce the environmental impact of e-commerce deliveries on cities and the planet. These 24 possible supply chain and technology interventions of future are as below;
1. Vehicle change: a. Electric Vehicle b. Efficient gasoline diesel/diesel ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). c.H2 FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle). d. Autonomous with runner. e. Drone and Truck.
2. Secure delivery: a. Parcel Box .b. Trunk Delivery . c. Secure delivery Systems
3. Customer Movement: a. Parcel locker. b. Office Delivery c. Multi brand Parcel Shop
4. Consolidation : a. UCC( Uniform Commercial Code).b. Load Pooling
5. Last Leg Change: .a. Goods Tram. b. Micro-hub. c. Retrofitting of parking based infrastructure. d. AGV ( Autonomous Ground Vehicle) Locker ( on Street).
e. Droid ( A Robot) ( On Pavement)
6. Delivery Environment: a. Dynamic Rerouting. b. Double-parking Enforcement. c. Express Lane Use d. Real-time traffic Lights. e. Delivery Parking Zones. f. Night-time delivery.
It is obvious that a multi-dimensional and global effort is needed to make online shopping environmental friendly. The role and preferences of customers about speed of delivery and buying behaviour will play a critical role in this regard, apart from greener technology and supply chain.