Ecommerce is a silent, albeit considerable contributor to climate change. All aspects of the ecommerce supply chain negatively impact the environment by way of producing excess waste and carbon dioxide.

Consumers have grown accustomed to expedited, free shipping, and free returns. This has moved them to order even more, knowing that shipping is free and they can simply return what they don’t wish to keep. E-commerce sales are only poised to grow, with half of all sales expected to be made online within the decade. This continued growth will only exacerbate the strain the current ecommerce system has placed on the planet.

Changing consumer mindsets

In addition to the growing landscape of ecommerce, consumer mindset is also shifting toward sustainability. For businesses, “going green” is not just an optional trend, but it’s actively affecting consumer thought and decision processes. According to Forbes, 87% of customers would buy a product with a social and environmental benefit if given the opportunity. Moreover, 92% would be more likely to trust a company that supports social or environmental issues. This movement in consumer sentiment is extremely popular among the younger generations. 

70% of millennials say that a company’s environmental focus influences their purchase decision.

Millennials especially are an attractive target group for many ecommerce brands since their purchasing power is continuously increasing. They spend almost $600 billion every year, a number that is expected to have grown to $1.4 trillion by 2020. If you want to capture Millennials and their purchasing power, being outwardly eco-conscious plays an important role in attracting this audience. When surveyed, 70% of millennials say that a company’s environmental focus influences their purchase decisions. In order to win this audience, a company has to consider these shoppers’ values, which in recent years has increased focus on sustainability.

Packaging and manufacturing

There are many practical and sustainable changes that brands can make with regards to packaging. A great place to start is by evaluating your current packaging. There are many compostable options for mailers, tape, labels, and packing peanuts. Using post-consumer recycled bags and boxes are also a great option to help reduce the creation of new plastics. It is also important to look at the products themselves when looking for ways to be more sustainable.

Brands can also leverage platforms like Common Objective, which helps connect people with manufacturers, suppliers, buyers, and other resources to build a more sustainable business, Sewport is another impactful site that connects fashion brands to sustainable manufacturers. For brands looking to improve the sustainability of their packaging, EcoEnclose is a great resource that brands can utilize to find more sustainable packaging options—they offer a variety of sustainable packaging options that will fit any brand’s needs.


Returns are one aspect of ecommerce that can contribute to climate change. In the US alone, returns create 5 billion pounds of landfill waste and 15 million tons of carbon emissions each year; that is equivalent to the amount of trash produced by 5 million people in a year. One of the biggest contributing factors to returns is the problem of sizing. Either a consumer accidentally buys the wrong size, or lacks confidence in the sizing, so they buy multiple options to ensure the correct fit.

Incorrect sizing and fit of a product, or the product not arriving as expected, can also be attributed to poor product description and photos. Both of these issues can be dealt with by improvements in the information provided to consumers on the PDP. This PDP on Tecovas thoroughly describes the fit and look of this product, and even highlights the return policy if they need it.

Brands like Atoms use return technology like Loop to process their exchanges and returns. This technology helps brands better service customers that are looking for a different size or style shoe, or even understand why products are returned and understand trends among returns. If multiple customers are returning a specific item because it runs big, or the color is off from the photo listed online, it is important that the brand is aware about this issue in order to make necessary adjustments. In the long run, the data gathered will help Atoms improve products and PDP in order to minimize returns.  

Luxury bedding brand Brooklinen utilizes Loop Returns to easily send returned sheets to their chosen donation site or charity. It takes the hassle out of the brand having to send the sheets to the donation site themself, plus reduces the number of times the returned item would be shipped. Now the returned item gets a second life, rather than just ending up in a landfill.

Carbon neutral orders

EcoCart is a great addition to merchants looking to up their sustainability game, with simple integration that results in an immediate, measurable change. With EcoCart’s Shopify app, brands can quickly and efficiently offset the carbon footprint of shipping their orders, usually for just 1-2% of the purchase price. For each individual order placed on your website, there is a specific amount of carbon emissions created as it travels from a warehouse or fulfillment center to its destination. EcoCart’s proprietary algorithm determines this emissions number and offsets the carbon footprint of each unique order by donating to carefully-vetted third-party verified carbon offsetting projects.

Brands that work with EcoCart have the option to pay for the offsets on behalf of their customers, or they can provide the option to their customers at checkout. When a brand chooses to purchase the offsets on behalf of their customers, they can also offset more than just shipping—everything from manufacturing and packaging. EcoCart truly provides a community of brands who are all working to better themselves and the world around them. Customer’s only have positive things to say when they see the carbon-neutral feature at checkout. EcoCart provides an opportunity for customers to be a part of a brand’s carbon-neutral journey.

EcoCart is now offering Loop customers a special package in celebration of Earth Day to kickstart your sustainability efforts. Joint Loop and EcoCart customers can enjoy waived onboarding fees and priority support, with free setup and customization courtesy of the EcoCart team. Plus, once your store is all set up for sustainability, EcoCart will cover the cost of making all your customers’ orders carbon neutral for a day. That’s something your customers and the planet will all want to celebrate.