Which is the best way to shop for the environment, retail, or online?


In the UK Internet purchases account for up to 28% of all retail sales – earlier in the year this reached 35% during the Covid peak.

Is internet shopping bad for the environment?

It is not a simple answer, here are some of issues, and maybe there is a better way.

To cut the carbon footprint the experts agree that the journey from store or warehouse to home has the largest impact. This is called the final mile – or in rural Devon, we call it the final 8 miles!

Typical Co2 emissions for new vehicles are:

  • Car – Petrol and diesel very similar at 127g / km
  • Van – Petrol 147g /km, Diesel 162g /km
  • Electric vehicles – charged on standard grid electricity need power that is generated, and this gives rise to emissions that equate to 40g/km. These emissions are reducing as the grid uses more renewable energy sources.

A typical diesel van home delivery round of online purchases in Britain consists of 120 drops, on an 80 km round. That round produces some 13kg of Co2, or 108g per individual delivery. If you went to the supermarket the typical return trip in a car averages 20km, which would generate 2.5kg of Co2. The supermarket shopping list would need 24 items on it to compare.

But how many failed internet deliveries are there, how many purchases are returned and how many premium deliveries are there – with less drops on the round?

Conversely how many shoppers walk or cycle to their convenience store, or use public transport?

With our sausages they need to be chilled or frozen, so the situation is more complex.  A chilled delivery vehicle generates on average 15% extra Co2 than a standard one. And if we decide to use an online ambient delivery courier, then the extra packaging needed to maintain the temperature needs to be considered for sustainability and cost.

Is it safe to send chilled or frozen items by ambient courier?

In the UK we can genuinely say we lead the world in our Food Safety Management systems. The British Retail Consortium Food Safety Global Standard issue 8 (with issue 9 pending) is a global standard recognised in 130 countries.

The standard says:

“Procedures shall be in place to ensure that the management of dispatch and of the vehicles and containers used for transporting products from the site do not present a risk to the safety, security, or quality of the products.”

To comply with the standard several demanding clauses need to be satisfied by the courier company, this quite rightly means careful selection is required.

It is not easy to find couriers who would meet this standard.

Our conclusion

A famous internet shopping platform used to have a statement that it wanted to offer everything, to everybody, everywhere.

Westaway Sausages could offer lower risk chilled foods on the internet safely and sustainably to identified customers, who were going to be available to take collection at a given time on a given day. Difficult to make this a punchy slogan!

An example that might work is our celebrated Westaways Hog’s pudding – an essential part of a West Country breakfast.  This is lower risk as precooked and sealed, and not available to customers outside the SW of England.

We have plenty of enquiries for this line, so the internet might be a solution.

But is there another way?

Could we deliver direct to customer in a refrigerated electric Westaways trike, charged using renewable electricity?  Straight from our fridge to yours, no extra packaging, safe and very sustainable.

Ideal for the 10,450 people, 5 schools, 3 care homes and 3 pubs within 3 miles of our factory.