How much does buying online pollute?


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Shopping online is a habit that has been consolidated since the outbreak of the pandemic. During the confinement, the delivery men – by bicycle, motorcycle, electronic scooter or van – were the undisputed owners of the streets.

The habit of buying online

We were already quite used to buying books, toys, telephones or furniture at the click of a button, either out of necessity or for convenience, but during 2020 the purchase of food online from both supermarkets and restaurants also increased.

“In June 2020, global retail e-commerce traffic stood at record 22 billion visits per month, with exceptionally high demand for everyday items such as groceries, clothing and technology items. How online usage, shopping habits and the overall future of the e-commerce market will look in 2021 and beyond will largely depend on the progression of COVID-19, ”according to data on e-commerce in the world of Statista.

Digital shoppers keep increasing

The pandemic has brought online food shopping to the fore, a previously niche industry. People wanted to avoid going to supermarkets at all costs – alleged sources of infection with long lines – and government regulations made it more difficult or in some cases impossible to go.

The number of digital buyers has been increasing year after year as Internet access and adoption increases, as well as the growing purchasing power of the middle class in some countries, more availability of products available on the Internet, new digital business models and technological advances in deliveries that allow packages to be delivered in a short period of time.

In 2019, nearly 2 billion people obtained goods or services online. During the same year, e-commerce sales exceeded US $ 3.5 trillion worldwide, and according to the latest calculations, e-commerce growth will accelerate even more in the future.

Consequences of buying online

Buying online is very convenient: you can do it quietly at any time of the day from your sofa without even having to bother to write down the credit card numbers if you already have them saved. And the package will arrive in a few days (or hours) at your door. But what are the consequences of these acquisitions?

To begin with, it leads to the destruction of small businesses. It is true that small establishments have been recharging since the appearance of the coronavirus. For example, due to the lack of activity in traditional markets, initiatives such as EcoMarket Shop, an online market for ecological and local products that connects suppliers with customers, have appeared. But the great beneficiaries during these months, which confirm a trend that began in recent years, are the large sales platforms such as AliExpress, Ebay or Amazon that market their products and those of other companies all over the world.


Another effect of online consumption is air pollution, which represents a significant health risk and kills seven million people each year around the world, according to data from the World Health Organization. More Internet purchases mean more polluting emissions. Amazon, for example, emitted 44.40 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2018, according to its own data.

Amazon, for example, already delivers 72% of your orders in 24 hours. In China, same-day delivery and instant delivery already account for more than 10% of total package deliveries – roughly 3 million items per day on the same day. In Europe, same-day delivery represents only 5% of the total.

Excessive packaging and connected devices

The excessive packagings of the packages that arrive at our house are another problem for the environment. These wastes represent 30% of solid waste in the United States, according to the country’s Environmental Protection Agency. You also have to take into consideration the sheer volume of emissions from the network, which keeps hundreds of miles of powerful computers running 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Other studies, financed by digital platforms, talk about the benefits of online commerce and other benefits such as the sale of second-hand objects. However, the best option seems to continue to be the traditional one: go shopping for local products at the market or at the local store, on foot.


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Carlos Castellanos

Carlos aplica tecnología para crear un impacto social y sostenible en las comunidades rurales, es activista por los derechos de los agricultores y su inclusión en la transformación tecnológica del campo. Sus abuelos y padres se criaron en el campo colombiano, motivándolo por el desarrollo rural y la prosperidad de las empresas campesinas. En su empresa Cultivando Futuro, junto con su equipo han creado desde el año 2013, un sistema de información que usa datos para dar visibilidad a cada uno de los más de 3500 agricultores de su red, al mismo tiempo que guía a las organizaciones que apoyan el desarrollo rural, gobiernos locales y empresas del sector privado, en sus estrategias de desarrollo rural y procesos de toma de decisiones.

La plataforma crea Identidades Digitales para los agricultores y organiza la información sociodemográfica y productiva en tableros de datos con gráficas y estadísticas visuales que permiten entender mejor el potencial y retos de las comunidades rurales, pudiendo mejorar la eficiencia en las conexiones que los agricultores requieren, para acceder a las oportunidades necesarias para que sus empresas familiares prosperen. Entre los últimos logros está el censo rural digital de 1000 agricultores en el municipio de La Peña Cundinamarca, Colombia y la implementación de Cultivando Futuro en Perú en alianza con ACM Ventures. (

Carlos fue ganador de la prestigiosa competencia de Singularity University ( Global Impact Competition y fue premiado con una beca para graduarse de Tecnologías Exponenciales en el campus NASA Eames en Silicon Valley, comunidad que ha documentado su trabajo.

Fue seleccionado como fellow del programa YLAI, Iniciativa de Jóvenes líderes de las Américas, ( dirigido por el Departamento de Estado de los Estados Unidos, abriéndole la oportunidad de implementar su estrategia de transformación digital rural en Kenia, Nigeria y Etiopía.

Cultivando Futuro fue la empresa ganadora del Summit Global y competencia de Startups Thought For Food ( del año 2017, donde compitió con otras Startups de Asia, Reino Unido y Estados Unidos. Actualmente Carlos es embajador de esta organización, compartiendo su conocimiento y siendo mentor de la startup Aglonera ( en Indonesia. Además fue premiado para participar en el programa Accelerate 2030 ( organizado por el Impact Hub de Medellín. (

Ha sido invitado en dos ocasiones como panelista en el congreso CFS (Comité para la seguridad alimentaria) ( organizado por la FAO, (Naciones Unidas) en su sede principal en Roma.

Ha sido mentor y panelista en eventos organizados por la UIS (Universidad Industrial de Santander) (, Universidad EAN ( , Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano ( y el CIAT (Centro de Investigación para la Agricultura Tropical) (

Como Director de Operaciones de Cultivando Futuro, usa su experiencia en implementación de tecnología para agricultura y cooperación con comunidades rurales para dar consultoría y crear alianzas inter-organizacionales.