With a smartphone in hand, many of us navigate life tethered to the internet, and that includes much of our shopping.

Online shopping is certainly convenient. But sometimes it can be harmful to our environment.

The increased use of fossil fuels consumed by transportation and manufacturing, crossing our continent and globe, creates excess carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change. Fortunately, it is possible to shop online with our blue planet in mind. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you’re clicking your way to new treasures.

Swap with Your Cyber-Neighbor

The transfer station swap shop has migrated to the internet, creating opportunities to engage with neighbors online and extend the life of many goods. The Buy Nothing Project is a community-based initiative with active Facebook groups in more than 20 Boston neighborhoods and many other communities across the country. Freecycle.com is another place to post your unneeded goods or seek out something in particular. Daily posts in these online communities are searchable and can include a dazzling array of items from wedding dresses to plant cuttings, stacks of old magazines to baby strollers.

One person’s trash can truly be another person’s treasure, and keeping it local means that you can get to know your neighbors while you’re using less fossil fuels. Win-win!
collage of items up for grabs
Collection of items up for grabs on a virtual swap shop

Buy Used

Thrift shopping has always been a way to find fabulous outfits while saving the carbon emissions needed to create new sweaters, sneakers, and scarves. Now there are lots of ways to buy used clothing with the added convenience of online shopping. Websites like ThredUp.com and Swap.com post high-quality clothing, professionally photographed, and helpfully categorized by style, color, size, and brand. An added bonus is this new-to-you clothing costs considerably less than if you bought it new. There are also many online resources for buying used furniture, electronics, and decor locally, including boston.craigslist.org and marketplace.apartmenttherapy.com.

thrift store clothes on rack
Used clothing (and a fabulously kitchy boat picture) for sale for sale in thrift shop

Practice Patience and Planning When Buying New

If you absolutely need something in particular and you can’t find it in your neighborhood or through online consignment, the convenience of online shopping is undeniable. Whether you’re shopping on Amazon.com or ordering food delivery from your local market, look for items that are manufactured and shipped locally. Try to consolidate your purchases so your order comes in fewer shipments, which means fewer trips by the delivery truck. Also, avoid expedited shipping (even if it’s free) because that allows companies the time to fully pack their trucks. With a little bit of planning and patience, you can order in a way that minimizes the use of fossil fuels in the shipping process.

Supporting your local community and making thoughtful choices can make a difference for our blue planet. So when you’re shopping online, like we all do, use these tips to try to find the little ways we can reduce our carbon footprint.