Carbon footprint of online shopping – how to handle it?

How often do you add things you don't even want to buy to the shopping basket? Have you thought: never? Well, the facts are that this happens every time you go shopping. The basket ends up with the items on your shopping list together with kilograms of carbon footprint. When processing your order, these emissions escape directly into the atmosphere. The good news is that retailers and consumers can zero out the carbon footprint of online shopping. We can turn e-commerce into an e(co)-merce!

3 min read


Ksenia Pisera

Journalist, popularizer of knowledge about environmental and climate protection

Implementing green solutions in the DNA of your business is a benefit to the global community and an effort that eco-conscious customers appreciate.

Online shopping, global market and carbon footprint

Online shopping is second to none when it comes to comfort. Thanks to the global web, we have unlimited access to products from all over the world, no matter what time it is or where we are. The numbers reflect the popularity of e-commerce. The forecast says the global e-commerce market will reach $5.55 billion only by 2022. And it won’t stop there. This figure is expected to grow over the next few years, showing that borderless e-commerce is becoming a viable option – for online retailers and consumers.

This trend is good for the environment. Scheduled home deliveries are less carbon-intensive than multiple trips to shops. It has been suggested by many studies, such as those conducted by Oliver Wyman and Logistics Advisory Experts (on behalf of Amazon). Their analysis shows that driving a car to a brick-and-mortar shop leads to 3 to 6 times more CO2 emissions than ordering a non-food product online. They thus calculated that when a customer drives to a shop, buys one product and does not return it, the emissions are 4,100g of CO2 compared to 900g of CO2 when ordering the same product online.

Reducing the carbon footprint of online shopping

Where do the differences come from? Everything is a matter of details, including consumer behaviour and business decisions. What should be considered if you want to reduce the carbon footprint of online shopping? Here are a few things you can start with.

  1. Planning

    Virtually everything can already be bought online – from groceries to building materials. Therefore, buyers looking to reduce the carbon footprint of online purchases can start with a list. The more products ordered from one retailer, the less energy and materials are needed to fulfil the order. That reduces the number of parcels, as well as delivery trips.You should also order online those items you are sure of buying. Fewer returns mean fewer return trips and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

  2. Packing

    Packaging made from recycled or biodegradable materials is an environmental-conscious retailer’s must-have in e-commerce. Plastic fillers and bubble wrap are worth replacing with plant-based ones. Not only does this reduce CO2 emissions, but it also reduces plastic waste.

  3. Delivery

    Retailers determine the delivery companies. If you want to reduce the carbon footprint of online shopping, you should choose partners that care about the environment. Carefully planned delivery logistics mean quicker deliveries and lower CO2 emissions due to reduced fuel consumption.
    On the other hand, buyers can choose the kind of delivery. The least carbon-intensive solution is to select a parcel machine within walking distance, limiting the number of doorstep deliveries. Fewer kilometres driven means fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

  4. Offsetting programme

    Reducing the carbon footprint of online shopping is an effective way to protect the climate and mitigate climate change. Doing so is also the first step toward turning emissions that cannot be reduced to a complete zero. This is possible with carbon neutrality programmes for e-commerce.

Carbon neutrality programmes for e-commerce

The heart of CO2 offsetting is a mechanism that involves offsetting one’s greenhouse gas emissions or part of them by paying for a reduction of the same emissions value. This is possible through special green projects, investments, and emitting carbon credits. TerGo offers up to two types of such credits: TERs, created by users of the TerGo mobile app, and VERs, which are obtained through our agroforestry project in Belize.

Specific features of carbon neutrality programmes for e-commerce are determined individually. These include, for example, implementing an option for the customer to pay an extra fee to offset the order’s CO2 emissions at the final stage of the purchasing process. Alternatively, the annual number of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the company’s operations can be calculated and then offset.

ECOmmerce with TerGo!

The future of the planet is our everyday business. Implementing green solutions in the DNA of your business is a benefit to the global community and an effort that eco-conscious customers appreciate.

Please write to us if you want to know more about our programmes for companies. Together we can do more!