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What is the real impact of online shopping to the env't?

Posted: 24 Dec 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:online shopping? Christmas? holiday? ICT? consumption?

People shop online to save time and money, but what is its impact on the environment? Is it true that buying goods and services via the Internet is better? Two researchers at KTH believe the answer is not that straightforward.

As new technologies, products and services are developed, ?sa Svenfelt and Miriam B?rjesson Rivera want to shed light on undocumented ways in which they affect the environment.

Environmental impact assessments are one way the IT and ICT industries try to predict the environmental impact of products and services, but the two researchers at KTH's Centre for Sustainable Communications (CESC) say that these assessments need to go further.

Svenfelt and B?rjesson Rivera work with the CESC's ongoing research project, Methods for Sustainability Assessments of ICT, which aims to make it possible for environmental impact assessments to not only take stock of the direct effects, but the indirect ones, too.

 Environmental impact of online consumerism

The environmental impact of online consumerism requires more rigorous investigation. (Source: Cutcaster)

It's not news that the holiday shopping season accounts for most of Sweden's overall retail business. But what is changing is that an ever-increasing number of gifts are purchased on the internet. More than one-third of the presents people have purchased this year are online purchases, according to a survey by Postnord.

The CESC study involves developing methods for evaluating IT solutions from a sustainability standpoint. In other words, how can such solutions contribute to sustainable development?

"We conduct interviews where we ask people about their consumption habits," explains B?rjesson Rivera. "Do you shop online? Do you look in a brick-and-mortar store before ordering online? Or do you research online before shopping in a regular store? What kind of consumption do people do with digital services? Do they stream their music or buy records? How do you watch film and television?"

 ?sa Svenfelt

?sa Svenfelt investigates IT and ICT impacts on the environment. (Source: H?kan LIndgren)

B?rjesson Rivera is a social anthropologist who looks at the phenomenon of consumption from a sociological perspective. A key concept in this research is social practices. It's about what people do in their everyday lives and how they do it.

"You can see everyday consumption as a social practice," she says. "And a social practice includes different elements, technology, i.e. the things needed to make social practice, the ability to use technology and the specific social practice meaning. In the case of consumption, it is about what it means to consume and what are the kind of thoughts and values ??associated with it? Thoughts and values ??one has in common with others who live in the same country," B?rjesson Rivera says.


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