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Eco Facts

The Hidden Costs of Online Shopping

November 28, 2019


Written by: Clare Cogan, Customer Experience @blueland

We all love the convenience of online shopping. It’s quick, it’s easy and we can get everything we need without leaving our home. However, the convenience of online shopping can come at a cost to our environment. We love getting our purchases as quickly as possible, but we leave a large carbon footprint every time we choose expedited shipping. We’ll break down the effects of our carbon footprint and how online shopping comes with an environmental cost.

What Is A Carbon Footprint?

You have probably heard the term “carbon footprint”, but what does it really mean? A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted as a result of human activities. Typically, a carbon footprint is measured in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide released while doing certain activities. When you think about your own carbon footprint, think about how you get around, do you drive, take the train, or fly? All of those activities release carbon dioxide. Think about everything you use and buy. The manufacturing process is different for each product, but there is some amount of CO2 released during the manufacturing process. In large quantities, CO2 can cause a lot of harm to the environment.

CO2 is a greenhouse gas and CO2 emissions are a major contributor to global warming. When greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere they trap heat inside the earth’s atmosphere. This is a naturally occurring process but when greenhouse gasses are released too often and in large concentrations too much heat gets trapped in our atmosphere. This causes the temperature of the earth to rise, which has pretty serious consequences for our planet.

What Emissions Are Associated With Online Shopping?

So, where does online shopping come in? When we order things online we pay for speed and convenience. But we pay for that speed in carbon emissions. Getting you the item you ordered online might seem as easy as the click of a button, but in reality, it takes a lot more energy to get you your purchase. Two-day shipping might not seem like a big deal, but it is to the environment. Here’s why:

Carbon Emissions By Transportation Method

Whatever we buy online gets to us by truck, boat, train or plane. In most cases, our items are shipped by using many different modes of transportation. Each vehicle releases CO2 into the environment during travel. The amount of CO2 released depends on the type of vehicle, the weight of the cargo and the distance the cargo is going. To calculate the CO2 emissions from cargo, the weight of the cargo is multiplied by the distance traveled and by the emissions factor for that type of freight. Emissions factors are measured by ton-mile.

For example, a cargo plane carrying 20,000 pounds of cargo (roughly 9.9 tons) traveling from New York to San Francisco will have the following emissions:

2,902 miles traveled x 9.9 tons of cargo x 1.32 kgs/ton-miles CO2

= 37,923 kg CO2 emitted

When your items need to get to you faster and the delivery window shrinks, the environmental costs increase. For retailers to meet expedited shipping deadlines, instead of choosing to have your items shipped to you on a boat, your items are shipped to you by plane, and planes have the highest CO2 emissions.

Tips To Keep Online Shopping Low Waste

  • Think twice before you choose expedited shipping.
  • Waiting a few extra days can have big savings for you and the environment.
  • Look for eco-friendly products and companies committed to sustainability and make the eco choice whenever possible.

How Does Blueland Limit Our Carbon Emissions?

At Blueland, we know getting your products to you is important. We typically ship our products with regular ground shipping to keep emissions low. Additionally, all of our products are incredibly light. By shipping only tablets and no water, our products are much lighter than traditional cleaning products. Our kits bundle our products together, so they are shipped with less packaging and have fewer individual shipments. To further reduce emissions, we have two warehouse locations in the U.S., one on the East Coast, and one on the West Coast. Having two warehouses helps us ship our products from shorter distances and keep carbon emissions low. This helps us keep your costs low and keep carbon emissions low.


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