Six ways to shop greener online

By thinking before clicking, you too can help prevent environmental devastation.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Published December 7, 2000 7:30PM (EST)

Don't panic. You don't have to buy only locally made, hand-knit hemp smocks on the Net to make your online shopping have less of an impact on the planet. Here are a few simple things you can do to be environmentally friendly when you shop with your mouse. Visit Responsible Shopper for more tips.

1. Don't, don't, don't choose overnight delivery. Air shipping is a massive energy hog, generating five times the fuel emissions as shipping by truck. Choosing the slower ground-delivery option is probably the single biggest thing you can do to lessen the impact of shopping online.

2. Combine orders. Order three or five books or CDs at a time, instead of one. Wait until your order is complete to have it shipped to you. This cuts down on wasteful packaging and extra deliveries.

3. Send your orders to your workplace. If you work in an office, UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service are probably already stopping by, so this eliminates extra deliveries. It also cuts down on wasteful missed delivery attempts.

4. Buy less. Do you really need more stuff? Just because shopping online is convenient doesn't mean you should indulge. Some environmentalists fear that while shopping online may ultimately be more energy-efficient it will make shopping so easy and effortless that we'll all just buy more stuff, in which case there will be no overall environmental benefit.

5. Don't print out the e-mail receipts and order confirmations. Curb your addiction to hard copies. Just remember to back up your e-mail when you back up your computer files.

6. Recycle the boxes. Duh. Did we really have to tell you that?

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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