Apparel sales from China’s 2016 “Singles Day” internet shopping bonanza produced 258,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions — equivalent to the CO2 absorbed by 2.58 million trees, new research from Greenpeace East Asia shows. [1]

“Singles Day is a catastrophe for the environment. Not only does it create huge amounts of waste, but the CO2 emissions from manufacturing, packaging and shipping are enormous. One-click, disposable fashion is not a sustainable model for the future of retail,” said Greenpeace East Asia toxics campaigner Nie Li.

Carbon emissions from online shopping are higher than from brick-and-mortar retail. [2]  Greenpeace found that delivery of 2016 Singles Day orders produced 52,400 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to the CO2 absorbed by 524,000 trees. In China, the use of cell phones and computers to place online orders produced 3.22 million tonnes of CO2 in 2015, or an average of 8,800 tonnes of carbon per day.

The recycling rate of packaging materials remains low. Nationwide, less than 10 percent of paper, cardboard and plastic packaging used in delivery is recycled. [3]

In China, clothing comprises the largest portion of online retail sales, at 28.5 percent. [4] China’s textile and clothing industry is ranked third out of 41 industries in terms of volume of wastewater discharge. [5] Twenty percent of China’s rivers and lakes have been contaminated as a result of dying, printing and treatment from the textile industry. [6]

Singles Day, which was reportedly started by a group of Nanjing University students in 1993 in celebration of singledom, was co-opted by online shopping giant Alibaba in 2009. [7]  In 2016, Alibaba’s Singles Day sales climbed to US$17.8 billion, and it’s now the biggest shopping day in the world. [8]

Greenpeace urges that manufacturers create more durable products and invest in closed-loop production. At the same time, consumers worldwide have the choice to purchase clothes that last longer, to buy second hand items, and to repair clothing instead of throwing it away.

“As consumers, the simplest thing we can do is to buy less and wear our clothes for longer. It takes 2700 liters of water to make one T-shirt, so buying a used shirt instead of a new one can save as much water as the average adult drinks in three years. There is growing discussion in China about sustainability, but this needs to be reflected in how we buy and make things,” said Nie Li.

Notes to editors:
[1]  See full report [in CH]:
[2] Weideli D, Cheikhrouhou N., Environmental Analysis of US Online Shopping
[3] CIECC,
[4] iiMedia Research,
[5] Ministry of Environmental Protection (2017), 2015 State Of Environment Report
[6]  Raybin, A, Water Pollution and Textiles Industry
[7] Singles’ Day: China’s Very Own Black Friday, The New Yorker,
[8] Alibaba’s Singles Day sale worth record $17.8bn, Financial Times

Media contacts:

Erin Newport, International Communications Officer
Greenpeace East Asia, Beijing | +86 18301149704 | [email protected]

Greenpeace International Press Desk, [email protected], phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)