Online stores allow us to easily buy and sell goods at our own convenience. This level of accessibility is a popular option for many, especially in current times where COVID-19 is keeping people at home and ‘inside their bubbles’. Not only is shopping online easier, but it’s also a safer option for people in many parts of the world who would rather stay safe at home, than risk shopping in a store. All of this convenience does come at a cost, however, and that’s not just in the materials needed for online retailers to ship out their products to customers. What about the environmental impact of shipping goods?
Between the packaging needed to protect your items during transit to the transport needed to get packages to their final destination, there’s a number of different factors which all impact our environment. This impact only doubles if an item is damaged during transit and needs to be returned.
In this article, we delve into Kiwis’ online shopping habits, how shipping and damaged goods can affect the environment, and sustainable things that we can do to lessen this impact.
Understanding Kiwis’ online shopping habits in 2020
Kiwis have long been lovers of online shopping – in our little corner of the world with often limited access to popular global brands, it’s become second nature to search for and buy what we need online. As we’ve all grappled with the effects of COVID-19 throughout 2020, and watched non-essential services close, our reliance on online shopping has only increased. With retail stores forced to shut up shop earlier this year, this didn’t stop Kiwis surfing the net to find a bargain.
It’s not surprising to learn that online shopping doubled across the country when we moved to Alert Level 3, during April of this year. Non-essential services were still closed during this time and after four weeks of no deliveries going out, online retailers were free to start shipping goods to customers again. NZ Post reported that online spending peaked at more than $200 million in late April, and they received more than 3.5 million parcels in the first two weeks of Alert Level 3 alone. While these figures seem incredibly high, it comes at no surprise. Not being able to receive any online orders for four weeks only flooded the market when shipping did open back up again, and the e-commerce sector shows no signs of slowing down.
COVID-19 has had an impact on almost every aspect of our daily lives but quite considerably the importance of social distancing has only further encouraged people to keep shopping online rather than simply popping to the shops. Online shopping levels remain at a high across the country with figures continuing to be up on the previous year – 30 per cent higher than the same time last year in fact. And with the holiday season approaching we envisage that this figure will only increase.
All of this online shopping, while convenient, has a big impact on our environment. Just what it impacts, we’ve covered below.
The effects of shipping on the environment
While it’s become expected that our online orders simply end up on our doorstep, many of us don’t stop to think of how they arrived, and the process that needs to be taken for us to receive these packages. Things like the fuel that courier trucks and vans use, and the packaging that goods arrive in all have an impact on the environment.
Most courier delivery vans and trucks will consume either petrol or diesel. These fossil fuels are non-renewable and will result in the emission of carbon dioxide. Driving vehicles powered by petrol or diesel will also produce emissions that affect the quality of the air. The emissions produced by these vehicles will only double if you have to return a package or you complete multiple orders.
Before you place your online order ensure that you have everything that you need so that the courier doesn’t have to make multiple trips. If the items you’re ordering are fragile and have an increased risk of being damaged during transit, consider whether it would be better to go and purchase them in-store.
Returning an item can also have an effect on fuel emissions as a courier will have to make multiple trips to collect the item you’re returning, and then will potentially need to make another trip to drop off a replacement product (if the product was damaged). Before you click ‘buy now’ ensure the item you’re purchasing is what you want.
Landfills and packaging
Have you ever considered what will happen to the packaging your order is wrapped in, once you receive it? A lot of the time (particularly for fragile items) plastic packaging like bubble wrap and plastic air pillows are used to ensure that items are protected and don’t break during transit. While this type of packaging does an excellent job to ensure that goods reach their final destination in one piece, it’s often un-recyclable and will head straight to landfill.
Every year New Zealanders send around 2.5 million tonnes of waste to landfills across the country – that works out to be over a tonne of rubbish per household! Lessening our reliance on landfills that go on to produce greenhouse gases is a sure way to lower our impact on the environment. Simply switching to more sustainable packaged products is one way that we can do our part.
How businesses can help
Damaged products will not only result in a lower bottom line due to having to replace broken items, but having to send out replacements will also negatively impact the environment due to wasted fuel and extra packaging products needed. One way that businesses can play their part is by ensuring that packages arrive at their destination in one piece, and that the material the goods are packaged in can either be reused, or recycled.
There are some great sustainable packaging options available that can help to ensure that your goods stay in one piece.
Cushioned paper courier bags
A fantastic alternative to traditional courier bags, cushioned paper courier bags are 100% recyclable and work just as well as plastic bubble mailing bags. These paper courier bags are made from recycled and FSC certified paper to a luxurious thickness that will keep your orders protected.
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Geami protection wrap
Geami Wrappak protection wrap is a beautiful sustainable solution to traditional plastic bubble wrap. Recyclable, biodegradable, compostable and made from sustainable forests, the dispenser is also made from cardboard and recyclable. Only use the amount you need to keep your goods snug and protected in a cardboard box – what a change from rolls and rolls of bubble wrap in your packaging area!
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As well as making excellent wrapping paper, kraft paper can also be used as a bubble wrap alternative, to keep goods in place and protected, while in transit. Simple tear off what you need, scrunch it up, and place it around your items. The kraft paper can then be recycled with normal paper recycling.
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Taking simple, sustainable steps now really will help to lessen the impact that online shopping and subsequently, shipping goods has on the environment. While we’ve listed a few of our most popular sustainable packaging products in this blog, we have plenty more options available on our website primepac.co.nz. To view a select range of sustainable workplace supplies, you can download the catalogue here.