How consumers can shop more sustainably on the Internet

Internet trade is growing and the number of parcel shipments is increasing sharply. This creates mountains of packaging waste and clouds of exhaust gas from delivery traffic. What consumers should look for when shopping online when they care about the environment.

Anyone who has delivery to the packing station avoids unnecessary trips by the parcel delivery company.

Avoid returns

VMany online retailers advertise free returns. However, if you order three pairs of shoes and then only keep one and send the rest back, you are not acting in an environmentally conscious manner. This is a “very central problem” in mail order, says Christine Wenzl from the Association for the Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND). Consumers should generally think about what they really need beforehand.

Short transport routes

Consumers should be careful about where their products are being shipped from. You can often find what you have bought from a dealer nearby. You can also order directly from the manufacturer so that the products do not have to be transported to an intermediary’s warehouse.

Packstation and parcel shop

Wenzl advises consumers to prefer to have them delivered to a packing station or parcel shop nearby than to their front door. “The package companies can then work more efficiently,” she says. “You can deliver many parcels at once and don’t have to drive to households multiple times when nobody is at home”. The entire neighborhood will also benefit if parcel cars are no longer parked in the second row everywhere.

Buy in bulk

If you order consumer goods such as cosmetics or printer cartridges over the Internet, you should use large packs if possible. This reduces the amount of packaging required and the number of packages. It also makes sense to send several orders to the same retailer in one shipment, as some online retailers offer. And some companies also offer climate-neutral shipping rates.

Ecological alternatives

There are many retailers on the Internet who specialize in ecological products. Some sell textiles from sustainable production, others plastic-free products – deodorants from paper tubes, for example, or drinking bottles made from recycled glass. There are retailers who send their products in reusable boxes instead of cardboard boxes, and food can now also be delivered in deposit jars by bike courier in the big city. Of course, the whole thing costs a little more.

Shop on site

“I try to buy as little as possible online,” says Wenzl. Instead, she relies on the local dealers – that saves shipping costs, protects the environment and has other advantages: “There I can try out the products directly and get expert advice,” says Wenzl. “And it would be a shame if online retail let the small retailers in the neighborhood die out.”