Recognize environmental impact of online shopping

By Claire Boston | Multimedia Journalist

We’ve all been there: You have a book you need to read in three days, but all the stores are sold out. You have a project due next class, and you need one last piece, except it cannot be found at your local craft store. Or maybe you got bored during your history lecture so you browsed around some online shops and stumbled upon a pair of boots you have to have. All of these dilemmas have one easy solution: You place on order online and check two-day shipping.

As a society, we have grown to cherish convenience and speed. With advances in technology, more and more jobs can now be done from home. Many grocery stores — including HEB — now offer a curbside service, where customers can place an order ahead and pick up their groceries on their way home from work instead of going inside and waiting in the checkout line. The world we live in is a fast-paced one. We have high-speed internet, and breaking news can reach millions of people in a matter of seconds. We can place an order online in just a few minutes. Consequentially, consumers have become increasingly more impatient.

It is no surprise that online shopping has seen an increase in the last few years with the introduction of Amazon Prime, which offers free two-day shipping on online orders. Additionally, monthly delivery services like Birchbox and the Dollar Shave Club and meal delivery services like Hello Fresh have contributed to the surge in online shipments.

With growth in online shopping has come an increase in the amount of cardboard in circulation.

Buzzfeed News says not all consumers know how to break down cardboard boxes, so that more can fit in the recycling bin. Because consumers are unable to fit all their cardboard into the recycling bin, a large portion ends up in the trash can and, subsequently, a landfill.

According to NBC News, the increase in online shipments has changed the color of the material from gray to brown at recycling centers. Most recycled material used to be from newspapers and magazines but is now from cardboard. Surprisingly, consumers are actually recycling less despite the increase in online shopping and the excess amounts of cardboard at recycling centers. NBC says this could be caused by consumer confusion over what is actually recyclable.

Although online shopping is still on the rise and does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon, there is hope. A small number of stores like the Package Free Shop have committed to reducing their environmental footprints. The Package Free Shop ships orders to their customers in 100 percent plastic-free, post-consumer shipping boxes. Furthermore, they include a note (on recycled paper, of course) that encourages customers to reuse the shipping box or break it down and recycle it. Despite the evidence of the negative environmental consequences of online shopping, the number of online sales continues to rise. The have-to-have-it-now mentality has wedged its way into many consumers’ minds. Instead of browsing the aisles, we are browsing on our phones and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Next time you need a new pair of shoes or a book for class, consider putting down your phone and going to a brick-and-mortar store to purchase the item instead. You will prevent one less cardboard box from being created, plus we could all stand to have more technology-free human interaction in our lives.