Intention Over Impulse: 6 Tips to Avoid Overconsumption When Shopping Online

Resisting the allure of online shopping can be tough. Constant sales events like Prime Day make it easy to succumb to the dopamine rush of buying something new. Yet, it's vital to remember that excessive consumption has dire consequences for the environment. Amazon, for instance, serves as a stark example. In 2021, its emissions equaled those of nearly 271,191 gasoline-powered cars driven for a full year. So, how can we break free from the cycle of mindless shopping and make more sustainable choices? Here are some dopamine-inducing alternatives:

1. The 24-hour rule

A rubbish truck full of clothes ends up being landfilled or burnt every second. These garments once began as perceived "needs" but now tragically meet a wasteful demise. It’s not easy to fight the impulse to buy. But before succumbing to it, consider implementing the 24-hour rule. Leave the item in your online shopping cart for a day before making a decision. This simple pause can help you assess whether the purchase is a genuine necessity or a fleeting desire.

2. Borrow before you buy

Do you really need to own that giant pink flamingo floaty? If you're unsure about how much you'll use an item or if it's worth the investment, explore borrowing options. Neighbors and local Buy Nothing groups are excellent resources for borrowing items temporarily, reducing unnecessary consumption.

3. Keep a list of wants and needs

Create a list of items you genuinely need and want. When you come across something tempting that isn't on the list, take some time to reflect on whether it's a necessary addition to your life. If it is, are there more sustainable ways for you to source it?

4. Avoid items you're likely to return

In 2020, the shipping and return of products accounted for 37% of the total GHG emissions. Instead of making hasty purchases that might end up being returned, consider alternative solutions such as borrowing or shopping secondhand. This not only reduces waste but also saves you the trouble of return logistics.

The most sustainable shopping habit is undoubtedly buying less. As we confront the challenges of overconsumption and the environmental repercussions it brings, it's crucial to adopt mindful practices that align with our values. Every conscious choice we make contributes to the well-being of our planet. For more guidance on building your sustainable life, download Commons and join our community of tens of thousands of people.

5. Shop secondhand first

If every person bought one secondhand garment instead of a new one, it could reduce CO2 emissions by over 2 billion pounds annually. Secondhand doesn't exclusively apply to clothing. Whether it’s fall decor or an office revamp, you can find a wide range of home items at thrift stores or on online marketplaces like Craigslist. Embrace the idea that someone else's "trash" might be your treasure.

6. Combine your orders

It may be fun to have new orders waiting for you every day, but shipping each item separately is a cause for major emissions. Consider the fact that 3 billion trees are pulped yearly to produce 241 million tons of shipping cartons. Minimize your detrimental impact on the environment by consolidating orders instead of making multiple small purchases.


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Commons team hiking
Thrive Market
Wholesaler of healthy food from leading organic brands
Naman Bajaj
September 13, 2023
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