14 Dec 2020, 14:16
Benjamin Wehrmann

Buying online or in-store has limited effect on products' climate impact – env agency

Clean Energy Wire

The climate impact of a product is only modestly influenced by how it finds its way to the final customer, be it through online or in-store shopping, a study commissioned by Germany's Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has found. The share of retailing and transport in the average product's total emissions ranges between one and ten percent, whereas up to three-quarters of greenhouse gases occur during production, the UBA said. "Whether we shop online or on high street is not really decisive for our climate impact," UBA head Dirk Messner commented, adding that the "biggest lever" consumers have regarding the CO2 balance of their shopping choices would be opting for ecologically produced goods. In the best of cases customers then get to the shop with environmentally-friendly means of transportation, for example with a bicycle or on foot.

Taking a private car to travel five kilometres to the shop would produce up to 1,100 grams of CO2, while a delivery from an online shopping outlet typically produces up to 400 grams of CO2, as delivery vehicles generally use more optimised routes to cater for many customers at once and tend to be low-emissions models as opposed to private cars, the study found. However, online deliveries also usually come with more packaging waste and can sometimes inflate their transport emissions on the "last mile" of a delivery. The agency said more could be done to improve the climate balance of goods in both retailing options, for example by improving customer information regarding the products' expected lifetime and reducing packaging waste through the use of less or at least reusable containers for delivery, which could bring waste volumes down by up to 45 percent. Alternatively, consumers could also try to purchase more second-hand goods instead of buying new products, the agency added.

All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)” . They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.
« previous news next news »


Sören Amelang

Researching a story? Drop CLEW a line or give us a call for background material and contacts.

+49 30 62858 497

Journalism for the energy transition

Get our Newsletter
Join our Network
Find an interviewee