I have a confession to make. I buy a lot of products online. When I had a 50 hour a week job and a husband to maintain (way more labor intensive than the pooch that may be his replacement, just sayin) I blamed it on not having the time to shop. Now, post pandemic, I just find it a way to avoid people. Way too many germ breathing humans in most stores for my personal taste. The internet has become one of my best friends and primary source of retail therapy. Don’t judge.

I’m also striving to live a more plastic free life and this does not always mesh neatly with my online shopping habit. First of all, let’s just casually mention that I’m not the only one with a problem. Apparently 2.14 billion of my closest friends shared my obsession in 2021. That’s a lot of packages. I mean, A LOT. So I guess we should examine how we keep this up, because I want to, in a way that maybe impacts Mother Earth a little less?

The first thing that we have to consider is that pesky old carbon footprint (you know, the greenhouse gas emissions caused by a service or product.) Good news! A new study demonstrates that online shopping reduces carbon emissions by 36% compared to in store shopping. However, that is not taking into account a couple of less than good habits we consumers can get into. First, we’ve been very spoiled by the idea of next day delivery which can lead us into the temptation to order every day (I would never!) Yes, Virginia, waiting a day or two and combining your orders reduces that footprint.

Second, if I’m not sure that size 8 is gonna fit, I might be tempted to order an 8 and a 9, knowing I can always return the one that doesn’t fit. Every year about 3.5 billion products are returned in the US, and only 20% of those products are actually defective. Companies are not equipped to deal with the tons of shoes with untied laces and torn packaging, the dresses that aren’t zipped, folded, and bagged. Guess what is the cheapest thing to do with our returns? Yup, send them to the landfill. I know, I know, sometimes you’re going to buy something that doesn’t fit. Maybe consider reselling through your local consignment store, Poshmark, or thredUP. Cut your losses, shop secondhand, help Mama, and have a new place to shop! Win, win. 

And finally, consider making it easier for that delivery to get to you on the first attempt. Even one additional trip will up that carbon footprint 75 % on that item. The vast majority of distributors offer text message notifications when they send you a confirmation email. Use them. Use them wisely. 

It doesn’t look like we’re going back to the old normal anytime soon and honestly, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I really like shopping online and have graduated to a zero plastic laundry detergent subscription, and even my daily oral care necessities like floss refills and toothpaste tablets delivered just when I need them to reduce packaging and emissions. Although I do occasionally miss the good old days, it’s live music, theater and social get-togethers that I long for; not shopping. Let’s embrace digital shopping (and pinky promise to do a little less,) and remember that at MeMotherEarth we always ship plastic free and carbon offset!

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