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The Dangers of Consumeristic Patterns in the Face of a Rising e-Commerce Industry

Written by: Alicia Andie Angkawidjaja, Grants Researcher Intern Project Child Indonesia

With Tokopedia, Shopee, and other e-commerce websites being so easy to use, we all have fallen into the comforts of buying something online so that we can receive it the next day (admit it, you’ve clicked on SiCepat shipping before). As e-commerce users, we must know the effect it will have on our future and our environment!

What are the impacts on climate change and the environment from an e-commerce boom?

Outside of e-commerce, consumers would need to drive to a retail or grocery store to get goods and services. This mode of service is self-service and requires only a single, unique channel for sales and logistics. 

Everything changed when the e-commerce industry began. There is a larger variety of products that consumers can choose from and more importantly, there are multi-channel sales and various options such as home delivery and getting products delivered to a designated collection point. 

Under the traditional system, goods are sent to retail stores in bulk (meaning, many products delivered at once) where consumers get their products. With e-commerce, each retailer is expected to deliver directly to its customers. The order size is one product instead of hundreds or thousands—leading to more packaging, faster delivery, and more mobility in deliveries. There are simply more processes in the logistics of consumerism. 

The result? Vehicle footprint increases, which leads to increased carbon emissions and air pollution, contributing to health problems and climate change. Also, more and more plastic packaging is used as products are delivered individually from seller to buyer, instead of in bulk to grocery stores. Our orders most often come in plastic packaging (especially excess bubble wrap) which will accumulate in our homes, our garbage bins, and eventually waste sites.

So, let’s try to be more mindful of our consumeristic patterns, even as the e-commerce industry rises, and strive to do good for our beloved earth. 

Here are some steps you can take to be more mindful of your consumeristic patterns:

  • Wait a few days, if not weeks, before buying a product. Impulse buying feels satisfying, but we might not end up needing that product anymore in a few months. Plus, we end up adding more waste to our garbage bins the more we impulse-buy. Taking a few days/weeks to carefully think if the product is something we can do to ensure that the purchase has a true purpose.
  • Buy for quality, not for quantity. In most cases, it’s much better to buy something a bit pricier that can last longer rather than something cheaper but will not last long. If you opt for the latter, you end up buying more of the product or something similar—ultimately spending more money and creating more waste.
  • Reuse the packaging your order comes from. Save bubble wrap and other plastic packaging to use next time instead of disposing of them immediately. 
  • Don’t be easily drawn into influencer-promoted products and trends. Who hasn’t been influenced by Instagram influencers? Of course, sponsored influencer posts bring interest in the product. However, we should be careful so that we don’t fall into the trap of repetitive purchases simply based on influencer reviews. Apply the principles mentioned above in this situation!
  • Order less, not more. Try to order fewer things online if you’re able to get those items in the nearest store where you can bring your own reusable bag to checkout. Things that can be easily bought at the nearest grocery store should be avoided from being purchased online. 
  • Set up a recycling system at home. Having one large garbage bin to throw all our waste in is simply not enough. Start with having three different bins for general waste, plastic, and paper. Our plastic and paper waste can be recycled (Note: they must be clean, so wash your plastic food containers before throwing them) easily if they are sorted the right way. Google and find out the nearest recycling factory near you—you might be lucky enough to find someone or a company to regularly pick up your recyclable trash.

References:

Burhan, Oleh Fahmi Ahmad. “Rapor Biru Tiga E-Commerce Besar Selama Pandemi Dan Harbolnas 12.12.” E-Commerce Katadata.co.id, 28 Dec. 2020, katadata.co.id/desysetyowati/digital/5fe976562e246/rapor-biru-tiga-e-commerce-besar-selama-pandemi-dan-harbolnas-1212.

Lim, Stanley Frederick W.T. “The E-Commerce Boom and Its Impact on Climate Change.” Varsity Online, 9 June 2021, www.varsity.co.uk/science/9086.