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How to minimise your online shopping carbon footprint during lockdown

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESPER HEDE

WORDS BY GEORGIE KIBEL

The $25 candle I bought online is travelling more than I will this year. 

If like me, you eagerly check the tracking updates of your latest online order multiple times a day, then you may have noticed that some of your items are taking the long route to get to your home. Your item might have initially been in Melbourne, mere kilometres from your home, but then you see that it was then sent on a 1500 km round trip to Sydney. 

So who is to blame for this massive detour? Yes, you guessed it. The black sheep of Australian states and territories: Victoria. A huge increase in online orders and mail due to the closure of retail in Victoria under stage four lockdown has meant many parcels have been sent to Sydney to be processed and sorted as Victorian facilities cannot cope with the sheer volume of mail. Compared to the first week of August last year, Australia Post has experienced a 175 per cent growth, so it is easy to understand the delay.

Australia Post recently revealed that it has chartered eight extra freighter flights to assist with speeding up deliveries – that’s a lot of extra flights. But for us ethically-minded consumers, the idea of increasing our carbon footprint unnecessarily by flying planes back and forth to get our goods to us is troubling.

Times are clearly tough, and it is important to continue to buy from small businesses who are struggling to gain an income. But if buying an item means it will be in a plane multiple times before it reaches your door, it does make you wonder – is there a more sustainable way? Listed below are several ways Australian consumers can minimise their carbon footprint in a time where we are relying on others to bring us our goods. 

Sendle

Sendle is the first fully carbon neutral delivery service in Australia. Compared its opponents, the company offsets its carbon emissions, and for every tonne of carbon dioxide Sendle releases into the air while delivering parcels, it cancels it out by supporting projects that combat climate change.

To find that dollar amount, Sendle calculates the potential CO2 generated by all parcel sends for the previous year and then invests it via their partner, South Pole. This means the deliveries of all Sendle customers are entirely carbon neutral. What makes Sendle even better is that it guarantees that its price will be cheaper than parcel post, and a delivery person comes directly to your door to send your items.

sendle.com

Buy local 

It’s common sense that buying from a store close to you means there will be less carbon produced due to a shorter trip getting it to your home. Buying from small local businesses may also use private couriers employed by the business, therefore avoiding the Australia Post dilemma (unless you want your item to enjoy a holiday to Sydney).

The increase in popularity of grazing boxes and hampers has meant that on special occasions, there is still the option to indulge in a special treat. Many of these small businesses use private courier services that operate fewer vehicles and therefore are producing fewer emissions. Florists and boutiques have also used private courier services for some time, so there are plenty of options available if you are in need of a gift for a loved one or treat for yourself. 

Use standard delivery methods instead of express when possible 

While receiving our items more quickly is extremely tempting due to the almost certain delays, choosing express delivery may be more harmful to the environment, as explained by Zero Waste Educator Polly Barks. “When you ask for items to be delivered quickly, the online distributor loses the ability to consolidate deliveries. Rather than sorting items into trucks in the cheapest way, the company now has to focus on the fastest way. That means more trucks running on the roads or worse – air delivery.” 

Click and collect 

Contactless click and collect options are being offered by many Australian businesses. While this may not be possible if outside of your given five-kilometre radius, it is a great option for those who have access to stores nearby. Click and collect is almost always free of charge, and it means you can get your items quicker and without a delivery fee. 

Place one order rather than lots of smaller ones 

Many places like Adore Beauty and Mecca offer great samples when you make a purchase, which makes it tempting to place a larger number of orders with fewer items in order to receive freebies. Unfortunately, this would cause larger carbon emissions due to the multiple trips your items would take to reach your home, not to mention all that extra packaging. Although you may sacrifice a sample or two, it’s worth it when you consider the impact that emissions have on our fragile ozone layer. 

Try to avoid missed deliveries 

When you miss a delivery, a truck must return your item to the post office and either try again at a later date or you must (potentially) drive to the store to collect it. While this is only minor in comparison to the carbon footprint produced by a plane that may freight your items across the country, it is good to be mindful of your footprint, big or small. As sometimes it is impossible to know when your item may arrive, it may be worth investing in a parcel box if you are a frequent online shopper, or allowing your item to be left in a safe place if this is a sensible option for you. 

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