The environmental costs of online shopping and next-day delivery

These days, virtually every major retailer offers online shopping and quick delivery.  It’s sure convenient – and well suited to today’s world of instant gratification.

But online shopping comes with a major transportation carbon footprint – much of which occurs in the ‘last mile’, the journey from your local depot to your doorstep that usually involves a van, a driver and a lot of driving.  And next-day delivery further increases that footprint, because it leads to all kinds of shipping inefficiencies in the name of speed.

On the other hand, making a special trip to a local store also involves a carbon footprint (unless you walk, bike or take transit).

So what’s the most eco-friendly way to shop?

  • When shopping online, forego fast shipping options (even if they’re free) and choose regular post. That way, your package is less likely to travel by air (the mode with the largest carbon footprint), and more likely to travel on a full truck or van.  A bit slower, but as my grade eight teacher used to say when we’d hound her about something, “Patience is a virtue.”
  • When shopping online, shop with an eye to minimizing returns, even if a seller offers free returns, because return shipping also has a carbon footprint. If you’re not sure about sizing, why not shop locally? That way you don’t need to order several sizes and return all but one.
  • When shopping online, combine and consolidate orders when possible so everything comes in one package (it’s not foolproof; items in the same order may originate from different warehouses)
  • When shopping locally, avoid making special trips, and always combine as many errands as you can into one trip
  • Avoid creating a double-footprint: first visiting a store to check something out, then going home and ordering it online. A double footprint, plus a real downer for your local retailer.
  • Consider carbon offsetting your shipment. Some shippers offer carbon offsets, but you may need to do a little research to verify they are Gold Standard carbon offsets, the best kind.

(Or you could choose to simply shop less, which is the best option of all for the planet and your wallet…)

Happy sustainable shopping!  (More on the subject here.)

Celebrate National Battery Day by recycling those batteries

According to, yesterday, February 12, was Extraterrestrial Culture Day.  Today is Tortellini Day.  And tomorrow is Cream-Filled Chocolates Day – nicely timed with Valentine’s Day!

But next Monday, February 18, is National Battery Day.  According to Statistics Canada, half of Canadian households recycle at least some of their batteries – that’s great news.  But the other half don’t, and that’s not-so-great news.

Batteries contain useful materials like metals and minerals that can be used again.  Some also contain heavy metals and toxic materials that need to be kept out of our environment.  So it makes sense to recycle.

And, these days, that’s really simple, thanks to Call2Recycle, a stewardship organization that collects batteries at over 60,000 drop-off locations across Canada and the US.  No matter where you live, chances are there’s one very near to you – and you can easily find it here.  See what types of batteries can be recycled here.  (No drop-off location near you?  Set one up here.)

Of course, Reduce is always better than Recycle – but when battery use is unavoidable, please be sure to recycle all your used batteries.

And happy National Battery Day!