Save the planet!

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Or at least help reduce your environmental impact as an eCommerce retailer

One of the Big Whoops of eCommerce is that shopping online may actually be better for the environment - people are spending less time in their cars, and fewer companies need brick-and-mortar stores that use lots of energy to stay open…. Right? Nope, that doesn’t sound quite true.

With consumers relying on fast, easy and constant delivery, carbon emissions from trucks and planes are skyrocketing. And delivery vehicles are taking lots of space in cities, blocking the roads and increasing congestion - which makes everybody else in a car emit more CO2 as well. Meanwhile, endless packages made from cardboard and plastic are using both renewable and nonrenewable resources, and are often thrown away or can’t be totally recycled.

Here are a few things you can do as an eCommerce retailer to reduce your environmental impact.

1. Choose an environmentally friendlier hosting service

Green Hosting means that the servers you use to get your site online are being fueled with renewable energy. Hosting The Internet all over the world actually takes up a lot of space and tons of energy, and merchants can decide where that energy is coming from. Check out to switch.

2. Ship with a delivery service that offers pick-up points

It’s pretty common to miss a package. And then the redelivery. Then you have to find time to go to the center and wait in line to pick it up. Instead, some big logistics companies offer local hubs - often in corner convenience stores or other retailers - that you can have your package delivered to, rather than your home. UPS My-Choice, Amazon and DPD do this type of service. By bringing packages to local hubs, rather than delivering each one individually or wasting trips when people are out, fewer trips are needed. And, it’s pretty convenient for many people to grab their package on the way to work, rather than missing it and needing to go to the shipping hub to get it.

3. Offset your emissions

In addition to reducing carbon emissions, one way to cause less damage is to offset your emissions. This means that you calculate how much CO2 your business is putting in the atmosphere, and then do something (or pay someone to do something) that takes that carbon out of the ‘sphere again somewhere else. This can be planting trees or changing an inefficient or nonrenewable energy to a greener one.

You can either simply pay a company to fund their carbon-offsetting projects, based on how much your business emits. Or, you can use shipping services like UPS Carbon Neutral which has offsets included in the price of their service.

4. Re-think your packaging

Packaging is one of the biggest issues when it comes to being environmentally friendly. You know plastic is made from fossil fuels, but cardboard is significantly more expensive. Plus, if you cut down too much on packaging, your products could be damaged during shipping and lead to a return (and another trip for the truck)

Still, looking for any way you can to reduce the amount of packing materials you use - and especially getting rid of anything that doesn’t break down, like styrofoam peanuts - is important. Even making your packages just a little bit smaller can save several trees in high volume.

5. Source from more energy efficient/eco-friendly companies

One important part of your environmental impact to consider is your product development. Where are you getting your materials from? Or even your office supplies? See if there are alternatives that don’t have to travel as far or are made from longer-lasting materials. This directory could be a good place to start.

6. Sell pre-loved

One booming market is the second-hand, resale and vintage sector, raking in billions of dollars every year and growing consistently. E-commerce accounts for nearly 40% of all second-hand sales, and online marketplaces that offer niche second-hand spaces have a lot of business opportunity. Consider selling used versions of your products, or opening up a marketplace for others to sell on your site, like ASOS Marketplace. You’ll get an extra revenue stream without having to produce any additional products.

7. Sell services

Selling services, as opposed to manufactured goods, is one way to grow your business without extra energy resources being used. More and more online retailers are becoming service providers, offering value to customers based on their skills rather than objects. As consumer demands gear more toward the service sector, fewer businesses will need to open up large manufacturing facilities.

We’ve hit a paradox - eCommerce is run on the basis of increased consumption; but increased consumption means increased environmental impact much of the time. Reducing the environmental impact your company leaves, while still making a profit, can seem difficult. However, it’s definitely possible (and becoming more so).

Have a creative way you’re reducing your environmental impact as a Shopify merchant? We’d love to know. Tell us about it.