Online Shopping: Bad for the Environment?

by Arun

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping as a means to buy goods has been on the rise. E-commerce sales have exploded as a result, with companies like Amazon,, Alibaba, Etsy, Shopify, and related companies reaping the benefit of the “modern” consumer spending means and habits.

This peaks on November 11th each year, as China, the world’s biggest consumer market, has the black friday equivalent overseas, called “Singles’ Day.” E-commerce giants have experienced huge sales on that day, with over $76 billion dollars in total sales with over 583,000 sales made in one single second ( Yet, a consideration that is almost never thought of is the carbon footprint that comes as a result of online shopping. Online shopping has received praise over the years as being green, eco-friendly, and convenient, though recent findings may prove otherwise.

As a result of all the order, 675 million packages had to be delivered, with over 9.4 million tons of packaging, with that number expected to increase to about 41 million tons by the year 2025. A study by Greenpeace estimates that on Singles’ day, the resulting purchases generated about 52,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the manufacturing, packaging, and shipping in 2017. To put that into perspective with the trend of online shopping, this figure is expected to 5x by the year 2025. This brings about the concern that online shopping perhaps makes it too easy to buy products at the click of a few buttons.

China’s President Xi Jinping has recognized this issue and has been pushing these larger corporations to support more environmentally-friendly options. Some larger corporations have tried to adapt to new regulations by implementing zipper boxes and sorts of tape, though it is harder for smaller businesses as these adaptations are often more expensive than simple, common packaging.

As online shopping and package-use will inevitably increase in the future, it brings about the need for stricter regulations and more societal support for these issues. With the impact of consumer spending and the related carbon footprint set to increase over the next decade, it warrants immediate action from all ends of society to make a difference.

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