Whilst I would rather shop in bricks and mortar shops all of the time, we all shop online, be that out of convenience or necessity. I, personally, live a bit more rurally and don’t always want to do a 20-mile round trip to buy plastic-free toilet paper, so online shopping it often is.
It’s often assumed that online shopping is bad for the environment, but on the contrary, online shopping can, in some cases, be better for the environment than bricks and mortar stores. A 2009 report from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that although packaging accounts for 22% of the carbon dioxide emissions of an item purchased online, customer transportation accounts for 65% of emissions when buying the equivalent item at a retail store.
This is concurrent with some research I did for work about 15 years ago, when I worked as a transport policy researcher, that showed that one truck doing many deliveries was more carbon-friendly than many people getting in their individual cars and driving to the shops.
Of course, over those intervening years, online shopping has changed dramatically and there are now caveats to the rule. For example, express shipping cancels out any carbon savings. Meanwhile, making multiple single orders rather than sitting down and making one single order also cancels out the carbon savings. This, in particular, is a relatively new consumer behaviour brought on by the rise of voice-activated devices such as Amazon’s Echo device, that can offer voice-controlled shopping. In short, if you want to be climate-friendly, don’t pick the express shipping option, and consolidate your orders. And of course, the biggest one: not buying stuff that you don’t need.
What about the online shopping packaging?
Whilst in shops you can bring your own bag or your own containers with online shopping there is no escaping the packaging.
I try and reuse all packaging that comes my way – boxes, bubble wrap and padded envelopes for things I’ve sold on eBay; brown packaging paper for wrapping up gifts; and so forth – but even then it would be great if shops could use more sustainable options, because there’s only so many times you can reuse packaging before it ends up in the bin. And don’t get me started on those grey plastic mailer bags that I haven’t found a way to reuse and can’t be recycled. Many online shops still have a long way to go on the packaging front.
Step forward noissue.
Next time a company posts you something in non-recyclable packaging then why not point them in the direction of noissue – a sustainable packaging company aimed at businesses large and small – that also plant trees with every order placed.
noissue didn’t set out to be an environmentally friendly packaging company – the founders were looking at eco friendly packaging for a previous endeavour, and couldn’t find exactly what they wanted, and realising a gap in the market switched focus and founded the company in 2017.
The noissue product that I am most excited about is a 100% compostable mailer, which replaces those pesky non-recyclable grey plastic bags. I’m always skeptical of industrially compostable items as so few of us have access to industrial composting facilities – most local councils won’t take items that are industrial compostable only – but thankfully noissue’s mailer is home compostable, breaking down within 180 days in a domestic composter (including in wormeries).
What I particularly like is that companies can buy in quantities as little as 100, making it accessible for smaller companies as well as larger ones. Too often eco options for businesses are only available at too big a scale for small companies to be able to warrant. noissue believe that sustainable packaging doesn’t have to be unattainable which resonates well with me.
noissue’s other packaging products include custom branded compostable packaging tape and stickers, which are both printed on FSC Certified paper using soy based inks, as opposed to traditional petroleum-based ink.
Their tape uses a starch-based adhesive which activates when wet, preventing storage issues and avoiding the problem of wax/plastic coating on most other available custom packing tapes.
Their other main offering is custom printed and branded tissue paper. Like noissue’s other products, the tissue is FSC Certified, and all the ink used is soy-based – making this a great eco-friendly packaging option for craft sellers and jewellers. Worried about buying in bulk and then the paper deteriorating over time? All of noissue’s paper is acid-free paper, meaning that it won’t deteriorate or yellow as quickly as conventional paper. From a customer perspective, acid-free paper lasts longer and can be reused more.
Of course, more environmentally friendly packaging won’t save the planet on its own – we all need to be more mindful of our own consumption and stop buying stuff we don’t really need but at least for the things we do need to buy online it’s reassuring to know that better options are out there.