Free shipping, free returns!
My 2020 resolution is to kick my habit of online shopping.
Why, you might ask? Because all our online shopping is detrimental to the environment.
Online shopping is a hobby of mine: an infinite number of shoes, dresses, and whatnot, discount codes, free shipping and returns, long return windows, and, most importantly, no people. I’m not alone in my love for online shopping: in the Netherlands alone, in the first half of 2019, there were 125 million online purchases.
125 million packages that need to be delivered. 125 million packages, of which half are returned.
This has to have an impact, right? Well, it definitely has.
Online shopping has caused an increased need for (plastic) packaging, which is at odds with our attempts to diminish waste and the use of single use plastics. It also caused an increase in the amount of packages to be delivered, increasing CO2 emissions from transportation, and clogged streets from all the PostNL, DHL, and UPS delivery vans. You may think your delivery man profits from the extra work, but, while his workload increased, he is still paid poorly and has little job security due to temporary contracts.
Returns cost web shops a lot of money. Collection and packaging of your order costs about €2,50, shipping costs €3,75. Returning an order makes for extra transportation costs. Also, someone has to check your order, process it, and prepare it for reselling (think of closing buttons and zippers, remove hairs, tying shoelaces, folding it, and applying new packaging material). The cost of returning is estimated to be €12,50.
A returned package will cost a shop a total of €18,75. With free shipping and returns, a lot of web shops lose millions of euros every year. Many shops run at a loss, and prices have to be increased to cut the losses.
Do you know what happens to the clothes you’ve returned? I didn’t, and the answer shocked me: reports say that up to 140 million kilos of clothing is burned every year. Returned items make up a large part of the burned pile. Perfectly good clothes, simply burned!
Big stores claim that roughly 95% of returned items is resold, but sources say that number is much, much lower.
It’s easy to blame only the customer for this large returns-problem. After all, if we bought less, chose better, or kept more, we wouldn’t have this problem. But let’s not forgot that oftentimes the products you’ve ordered look completely different in real life. They turn out to be of an unflattering or cheap-looking fabric, the sizes are all wrong, the color looks flat in real life, or it just doesn’t fit the way you thought it would.
The best way to diminish returns, is indeed to buy less. Buy less fast fashion, buy less clothing of questionable quality. We really do have to choose better. Clothing companies are increasingly helping us make better decisions. They are doing this by asking questions about your body: length, weight, measurements, and age. Then, they suggest the right size for you. It’s already possible to try to determine your size with apps on your smartphone by using pictures. But experts say that, eventually, we’ll all be using a 3D-scan of our bodies.
This might fix the ‘let’s order 3 sizes to be sure’-problem, but not the ‘well, this is a disappointment’–problem. The best way to fix that, is to go to an actual store and try on as much items as you want. Just don’t go by car, but use public transport or your bike instead!
Companies are also diminishing the amount of packaging they use. That means less material, but it also means that your package takes up less space in the delivery van, increasing the number of packages that can fit into the van, and decreasing the number of rides and CO2 emissions.
Another alternative is of course renting your clothes. Clothing rental is on the rise and it’s only growing! Have you checked soon to come service of Borrow A Brand yet?
So, to diminish my impact in 2020, I’m shopping less online. I’m also going to shop less in real life and start renting. Choose better, remember?
Fingers crossed I can keep this up!