The rising frequency of online consumption and the potential for a green fix

One of the largest changes since the outbreak of Covid-19 has been the shift of consumerism away from traditional retailers towards online shopping. As more retailers pivoted to operating online as a result of the country-wide lockdowns, the pandemic acted as a nudge that catalysed a behavioural shift towards increased online consumption. Initial expenditure on online food shopping led to increasing numbers and demographics of consumers spending online, acting as a tipping point for older generations who may have previously always visited shops in person. Whilst this is arguably lifesaving in the face of a pandemic, one repercussion of increased online shopping (and to some extent, the increase in accessible consumerism it promoted) has been a dramatic increase in waste packaging materials and delivery journeys.

As the reduction in CO2 emissions from fewer commuter cars on the roads has been lauded as one of the strongest cases for scaling back current commuter practices and ‚’building back greener‚’ in the response to COVID-19, less publicity has been afforded to the environmentally detrimental practices that have also emerged in response to the pandemic. Increased waste production, in the form of packaging and shipping or delivery emissions, has added an environmental pressure that may remain in the future. The number of individual packages and delivery journeys associated with this provide an environmental challenge, in terms of CO2 emissions and waste production. The increased frequency of online shopping however also provides an opportunity to streamline the associated processes and act to make this transition within consumer behaviours more mindful and environmentally friendly.




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