Online vs. in store? How to have a green Christmas

Special Reports

Tips for making your holiday shopping more eco-friendly

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The holiday shopping season is in full swing, but many consumers are thinking about the environment before that final ka-ching.

One question that often gets asked is whether online shopping is better or worse for the environment than traditional store shopping. The answer, according to experts: It depends.

“Packaging, transportation, how many times people are going back to making returns. There are so many different things that factor in,” said Jennifer Nolfi, executive director of Portland State University’s Center for Retail Leadership.

For example, if you go shopping in a group, that cuts down on the number of vehicles on the road and the associated emissions, Nolfi said.

“Consumers today are more concerned about the purchases they’re making…”

According to the National Retail Federation, well over half of Americans wait until the week before Christmas to buy their final gifts. With low-cost, high-speed shipping options, procrastination has gotten even easier. But skipping same-day and next-day shipping is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint while shopping.

Jennifer Nolfi is the executive director of Portland State University’s Center for Retail Leadership (Hannah Ray Lambert)

“I think one of the biggest challenges we have today is in this kind of Amazon economy that we want it yesterday,” Nolfi said. That means companies might not load the trucks as efficiently because they need to get it out right away. “Whereas if you’re willing to be more patient and wait for your package for five days, then it’s more likely they’re able to fully pack the vehicle or truck that’s delivering the product to you,” she said.

You should also try to be sure of your purchase before clicking “add to cart.”

“People will just buy several items to see if it works and be like, ‘I can just send it back and it’s free shipping,'” Nolfi said. “But they don’t think about the negative consequences on the environment…”

Negative consequences such as repackaging items, and using more fuel to ship them again.

Overall, though, Nolfi told KOIN 6 consumers are more concerned about the environment than they used to be, and retailers are responding.

“There are more sustainable packaging options that break down in the environment,” she said. “I know there’s a lot of retailers that are making commitments to reduce the amount of environmental packaging over the next five or 10 years because they know that that does have a negative impact.”

Quick tips

  • Don’t choose same-day or next-day shipping
  • Choose eco-friendly packaging or less packaging, if it’s an option
  • Think before you buy to avoid unnecessary returns

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