The Dark Side Of Online Shopping Nobody Wants to Talk About

Amazon’s plastic footprint is like to be higher in 2021 as it continues to have record-breaking sales as more people shop online.

Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash

There will be days when my day revolves around waiting for the items I bought online, to arrive. I seldom shop online, but like many, the circumstances of 2020 and 2021 have made me an online shopper.

Don’t judge me. I even buy my meals and groceries online.

I know of friends who have done retail therapy. There must be no shame as we have our own ways to cope with what is happening worldwide.

As we celebrate Earth Day, it made me reflect on the amount of packaging that goes with everything we buy online. In 2020, Amazon had a record-breaking year. And the trend towards online shopping will continue as more people are now accustomed to buying online.

It only means one thing. There is excessive use of single-use plastic in the packaging needed for all the items sold online, to arrive safely to our homes.

A few days ago, I recently moved to a new place. While there is a feeling of joy whenever an item I bought online arrives, I would jokingly ask myself, in my Mari Kondo moment, “ Does this brings me joy?”

One day, I had a few items that arrived at the same time. After unboxing everything, joy turned into sadness. I saw the amount of packaging, plastics, boxes that I need to throw.

I was horrified.

As I watched Tim Cook during Apple’s Spring Loaded event, a phrase he said struck me that by 2030 Apple will be carbon neutral. Even today, Apple has made it a policy to lessen its carbon footprint by using recyclable aluminum and recyclable packaging.

While commendable, there is a lot that we need to do for Mother Earth and the environment. It has to be a concerted effort between big companies, the government, and us, the online consumers.

We need to take collective actions together if we want to save our planet. We need to be proactive in solving the problem we are facing right now. We can no longer sweep it under the rug. There is a dark side of online shopping that we need to talk about.

Again, the burden of solving the environmental crisis should not rest on the shoulders of consumers alone. There are things we can do as responsible online shoppers.

But we should also take into account why people are shopping online, some more than others. These times have been very trying for most of us.

Our psyche is being challenged every day. In 2021, we can’t find a word for how we are each day. Until I read this article from the New York times, I finally had a name to attach to my feelings most days, languishing.

Let us not blame businesses, especially the small businesses who have to cope with the new normal. Their companies have to thrive online. Otherwise, they would close shop as many small businesses around the world have experienced.

And consumers can also be demanding with the items they order online. Not only must they come quickly, but they must come well-packed, and they should come in many layers of plastic packaging.

Aside from the billions of items we buy online, we live with single-use face masks and PPEs each day as we adapt to the new normal. While they are essential and save lives, they also contribute to the decay of our environment, especially when we throw them away recklessly.

To us who buy online, we shouldn’t feel ashamed why we buy things. Again, if it is a coping mechanism, do it to our hearts’ content. I will not judge you for your choices and behavior.

But there are practices we can use as responsible online shoppers. As we move towards normalcy, here are some ideas and practices you can consider.

  1. Can the items you buy online be purchased in a local shop near you? Not only are you saving on extra packaging if you buy the same item online, but you are also helping a local business.
  2. Bundle your purchases with the same online store or shop — Instead of buying from different stores,. Sometimes the products you want can be sourced from one online store.
    This means less packaging. The tiny amount you save from shopping in different stores may make a big difference in helping save the environment. Shipping from a single online store means less packaging.
  3. Bracketing shopping — I know the shoe must fit, or the clothes have to fit in nicely. Try to practice less “bracketing shopping.” It results in more items being sent back, which means things have to be repackaged and delivered back to the online store.
    It is double peat trouble for the environment, more packaging, and added carbon footprint to transport the items back to the online store.

While it has become effortless to return products you bought online, make sure you do it for a good reason.

It also is a good idea to ask the seller first, for questions sometimes expectations can be answered even before you buy online.

Last words

Yesterday, I ordered food online, and I chose a restaurant that is near my place. I could walk and pick my order. It was a great experience to say hello to someone from that neighborhood restaurant.

I hope my order helped their business for the day. It also helped me mentally to have a conversation other than the delivery person who brings me my food and items I buy online, which I also do, by the way.

Human interactions can also help us navigate whatever we are feeling right now.

At the same time, it is time to think beyond what is happening as we celebrate Earth Day. Let us make an effort to ask, hey,

Mother Earth, are you OK?

I am my Mom’s true copy. I write fast, I write well.