Online Shopping as “Green”

2 Comments | This entry was posted in Marketing, Merchandising, Public Policy

Carnegie Mellon University’s Green Design Institute recently concluded that online shopping can be “greener” than shopping via traditional models. Using data from its Green Design Consortium member,, the study compared the impact of buying a flash drive online from vs. driving to and from a store. It concluded that the online transaction reduced the “…environmental impact with 35% less energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions…”.

So, we asked, does the idea that online shopping may be greener than other shopping models resonate with consumers?

  • A March 2009 survey conducted by BIGresearch indicates that indeed it does, at least for some. Approximately one third of the US population – across age groups, US regions, even political party affiliations – already believes that online shopping is better for the environment.
  • The good news for online retailers: almost two-thirds (59.7%) of those who already believe in the environmental merits of online shopping say they would shop online more often as part of a greener lifestyle. Another 20% who believe that online shopping is green don’t know if they would actually increase their online shopping… but presumably would be receptive to some good marketing around this idea.

While the Carnegie Mellon study results won’t apply uniformly to all online shopping scenarios, it would appear that at least a third of a given retailer’s customers are open to hearing about the green merits of online shopping. As such, many of these consumers appear to be primed to act upon green-focused initiatives by retailers, from green benefits messages to site features such as carbon off-set shipping options.

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  1. Posted March 28, 2009 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    This is a really worthwhile attribute for multi-channel retailers to promote. It is particularly good news for retailers who are actually promoting #eco-friendly products, and whom do not have brick and mortar stores…It will be interesting to see if these findings are promoted..I will certainly share this with all of my clients..

  2. Posted February 19, 2010 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    The evaluation should take into account the energy consumption till the last mile, i.e. factory to door-step including that of the courier and postal service delivery trips. There may be an argument where the courier service dispatches in bulk, but the same should be considered side by side with the notion that a household typically plans “a flash drive buy” along with their weekend shopping trip.

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