Shopping for sustainable clothing, or anything else for that matter, has planetary consequences. Here’s how you can minimize them.
A recent study of purchasing patterns in five European countries—the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain—found that buying a product in-person produced 2.3 times greater emissions than an online purchase. As reported by Fashion Network, the study looked solely at carbon emissions, which of course doesn't take into account other factors that contribute to climate change and planetary pollution. And being a European study, the numbers may well be worse in America where we largely shun public transit and drive further in bigger vehicles on our shopping forays.
According to the study of European consumers, 66 percent of emissions associated with shopping in-person come from the trip to the store itself. With e-commerce purchases, the single largest contributor to emissions are those produced by the so-called “last mile” in the delivery process. Again, due to the much vaster distances here in the US, it’s easy to imagine our emissions would be larger. Living where I do in a rural setting, the nearest UPS and Fedex terminals are many miles away, stretching the notion of what actually constitutes the last mile.
What if in-person shopping is unavoidable?
Writing this as we are in the midst of a coronavirus spike here in Oregon, we have added incentives to shop online beyond reducing emissions. It may go without saying, but by combining multiple store visits and other errands into a single trip you’ll reduce your carbon imprint. Of course, I like a lot of others have viewed shopping trips as a two-edged sword lately. On the one hand, after months of isolation, we long for chances to commune with others, even if they’re simply fellow shoppers or cashiers. But given that in my case the nearest shopping involves at least an hourlong commute, we have always tended to save up errands. Right now there is also the very real risk of exposing ourselves unnecessarily during a pandemic.
However you decide to shop, I hope you’ll stay safe and continue to be the great conscious consumers that you are!