Shopping online is now a indisputable phenomenon with over 800,000 people using eBay to make a full time living. Never before has it been so easy to buy anything from anywhere and have it delivered to your front door. Yet due to the personal nature of online auctions and the fact there is no third party to ensure that everything goes according to plan or that quality standards are upheld, moving the online auction industry towards sustainable trading is a tough ask. polovni
In the context of online trading or any retailing activity, sustainability describes how our economic systems can have less impact on ecological systems. Threads of discourse include reducing waste – as seen at supermarkets everywhere switching to re-usable shopping bags – and attempts to slow climate change and save energy through the use of fluorescent light bulbs or more energy efficient technologies.
The founding document on sustainability comes from the Brundtland Commission in 1983 and defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” A quarter of a century later entire academic departments, think tanks and Government ministries have been created with the sole purpose of studying sustainability. Encouragingly, this knowledge and debate is starting to trickle down to the general public.
Customers now expect standards of sustainability and eco-responsibility from the merchants they buy from. That said, some still believe that sustainability is a ‘fuzzy’ term with no practical application or bearing on real life. It’s an unfortunate truth that marketers have clamped onto Sustainability and Green-ness in their promotions like a leech on a leg. This strategy is widespread enough to have produced the phrases “Greenwashing”, or “Green sheen”, which describe the practice of making unsubstantiated or excessive claims about the green-ness of a service or product. The effect of being bombarded with this form of advertising has already made the general public skeptical of claims of worthiness. Companies now have to talk about their sustainable successes in a much softer voice.
It’s one thing for companies to move towards greater sustainability, but just how are individuals supposed to implement changes to their selling online?
For the Seller: Stick with the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Reduce: As a society we’ve become more and more obsessed with packaging. If what you’re selling doesn’t require extra packaging don’t use it. Things like clothes, bags and soft toys don’t need extra wrapping. A study (INCPEN, Towards greener households) conducted in 2001 showed that plastic packaging accounts for 20% of the weight of all packaging and that 53% of all goods are packaged in plastics. Cutting down on plastic packaging will also save money on postage.
Re-use: If you MUST use bubble wrap offer a self addressed envelope for the buyer to send the material back to you in. This can be used as a point of difference from competitors and is a quiet way of saying “I care about the environment.”
Recycle: Use recycled cardboard boxes or recyclable or easily biodegradable materials such as old newspaper. Instead of using tape to stick everything together tie with wool, twine or string. Those concerned with the aesthetics of a recycled package can go ‘old school’ and opt for the brown-paper-white-string-look, always a classic.