Sustainability demands conscious shopping

Story by Haelee Kim
Associate Opinion Editor

Illustration by Alicia Zhang
Staff Illustrator

Certain American shopping habits have become increasingly commonplace as new, more desirable products flood the market every day. Specifically, many people have begun browsing online in the comfort of their own homes as opposed to shopping in person; clicking one “buy” button to complete a purchase has been popularized over physically showing up to shops and businesses. 

Shopping behind a screen is deceptive. In a store, payment is physically exchanged, so a consumer registers that they are making a purchase. Online, however, everything is automatic. There is a reduced sense of accountability whenever a purchase is made because money is wired electronically, out of sight and mind. This is only emphasized by the delay of actually receiving that item.

These trends reflect a growing attitude of nonchalance when it comes to environmental degradation. The immediate transaction does not magically place a product in a buyer’s hands, compared to leaving a store with the item they bought. This is an incomplete process that, when delayed cognitively, makes one more susceptible to making impulsive purchases at the environment’s expense.

Huge conglomerates like Amazon have built their empires with Prime shipping, so it is difficult to reconcile the price of their projected successes and highly effective growth models. But even the seemingly inconsequential decision of choosing between same-day delivery and regular shipping has a profound effect on the environment. 

Warehouses that rush to deliver express orders rarely take into consideration that trucks are filled to the brim before setting out. Transportation has already become one of the top carbon dioxide emitters in the United States, and this development would guarantee that more trucks will be sent out to satisfy demand and emit additional carbon. 

Because of free return policies, problems with sustainability do not end there. People often buy clothing in multiple sizes just to try on all of them before returning the ones that do not fit, needlessly creating more waste by creating inconsistency between supply and demand. 

Companies must adopt more sustainable approaches in their business conduct and everyday policies, but consumers also have to acknowledge that something as trivial-sounding as online shopping can have massive environmental blowback. Developed countries like the United States must be collectively judged for their daily habits and unsustainable practices because of their tremendous environmental impacts compared to the rest of the world.

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