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The Impacts of Online Shopping

By Lauren Chiang and Esther Kang

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no doubt many of us have relied on retail therapy and social media to keep us sane in long periods of isolation. We’ve spent countless hours scrolling through the hot fashion trends of social media while constantly adding items to our cart. However, have we realized the true impacts of our online shopping addictions?

A lesser-known part of the environmental impact of online shopping are returns. Around 30% of online orders result in returns, and shockingly, “20% of these online returns end up in landfill because they are unable to be resold by the retailer” (GreenStory).

Popular fast fashion brands are notorious for having significant carbon footprints on the environment. To put it simply, fast fashion is a modern-day term used to define mass-produced, low-quality clothing made with unethical factory practices.Fast fashion brands focus on carefully following clothing trends to market their products as “in style.” In particular, Shein—a notoriously cheap and popular fast fashion brand—has continuously used copious amounts of plastic for online orders, which has been seen in mass hauls done by big influencers on TikTok and YouTube. Moreover, many young consumers have turned to these sources as a cheap way to follow popular fashion trends and maintain their physical appearances with their style.

Studies have shown that online shopping, much like regular shopping, is addictive. Online shopping addiction’s effects are similar to those of regular shopping in the sense that they both cause overspending. However, online shopping is even more dangerous because of how easily accessible it is. This addiction also leads to higher risks of fraud as 4 in 10 cases of fraud come directly from online shopping. Especially with the rise of eBay and “auction” sites, many buyers have been contacted about ‘winning’ an auction even though they didn’t, increasing exposure to scammers and potential credit/debit card theft.

There are several things we can do to lessen the effects of online shopping: the first is to encourage others to stop supporting fast fashion brands, such as Shein and Zara. In certain financial situations, it is perfectly justified for consumers to purchase inexpensive clothing from such brands. However, a solution for those who are able to afford high-tier clothing is to invest in high-rated sustainable clothing brands. A large benefit of doing so is having great quality pieces that will last a long time.

Additionally, buying second-hand clothing serves as a great benefit for both the consumer and seller: items are priced lower than usual, and sellers earn that money for putting up gently used clothing for sale. To put it simply, it's a win-win situation!

Finally, simply appreciating and continually wearing current clothing items is a sustainable act on its own. Rewearing clothing pieces in multiple ways is always a smart way to be fashionable and save money—your wallet will thank you.

Works cited:

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