Senior Honors Project
Over the past twenty years, online shopping has grown in popularity as more and more companies began expanding their business online. A common belief is that online shopping is an environmentally friendly substitute for in-person shopping because consumers stop taking individual shopping trips. This paper challenges this substitution assumption. I also investigate how consumers' gas consumption patterns vary according to their shopping practices and interpret those results from a sustainability point of view. The shopping behavior correlated with a decrease in gas consumption, and therefore a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, will be ruled as the more environmentally responsible practice from a consumer point of view. Using the National Household Travel Survey data set from 2017, I investigated the sociodemographic characteristics of in-person shoppers. I also analyzed the relationship between the number of shopping trips, number of deliveries, and total gas consumption. I find evidence that online shoppers keep practicing in-person shopping, meaning that both practices are complementary. I also find evidence that online shopping decrease gas expenditure, which means that from a gas consumption and consumer point of view, online shopping is better for the environment, but this conclusion needs to be interpreted with caution.
Joly, Elsa, "The Environmental Cost of Shopping: A Comparison Between Online and In-Person Shopping" (2023). Antonian Scholars Honors Program. 74.