It is completely valid to be feeling bored and a little bit stir-crazy while quarantined. Many of us have reached the point where we’ve run out of movies and TV shows to watch. Work and productivity are increasingly difficult, so it makes sense that many people are panic shopping online to ease their anxieties. However, especially during trying times like these, we have to look outside of ourselves and be mindful of the impact our online shopping habits could be having on others.

I’m all for people making sure they have essential items like food and cleaning supplies in their homes. Getting things delivered is more than understandable considering the increased health risk of shopping in stores. But we must also consider the wellbeing of those in essential businesses and delivery jobs and how they may be impacted by our shopping habits.

The impact of deliveries on public health

What we may view as a cute new loungewear outfit to act as a little pick-me-up during social distancing could have effects that are far more sinister. Delivery workers are putting themselves at risk every single day by traveling all around different areas and coming into contact with countless people. Even more discouraging is the fact that many do not have the appropriate protective gear and supplies to keep themselves safe and healthy. Due to the sudden increase in demand for protective equipment, supply is low. Delivery workers are adamant that hand sanitizer is not enough. We are asking essential workers to sacrifice their health daily for our convenience. That is not okay. 

Deliveries pose a risk to our own health as well. Packaging in particular is highly susceptible to contamination. Think about how many hands touch a package en route from a factory to its recipient. Even if we’re being careful to wear gloves and disinfect items once they’ve reached our homes, the risk of contamination still remains.

How to shop mindfully

I am not by any means saying that people should completely stop using delivery services. However, I do think we could all benefit from cutting back on non-essential deliveries. Mindful and selective shopping is key. Obviously, if you are immune-compromised or otherwise unable to go out yourself, by all means, you should use delivery. But those of us that are able to should exercise compassion for delivery workers by limiting our online shopping orders to only the essentials, and by not making more often than necessary. If you want to support businesses and delivery workers’ wages, there are other ways to do so. Donating directly to relief efforts for essential workers is a good option.

I understand that a certain amount of shopping is crucial to the economy staying afloat – I simply urge you to be mindful of your purchases and the domino effect they can have. Ask yourself, is this particular purchase necessary, or is there a better use for my money and my time?

In this difficult time, practicing empathy for others is of utmost importance. It is not simply about staying healthy yourself, but also about extending that privilege to others. This means exercising awareness. Social distancing goes beyond standing six feet apart and extends into our daily routines. Online shopping habits are a small step in a larger exercise to respect each others’ basic right to health and safety.

  • Maggie Mahoney

    Maggie Mahoney is an editorial fellow based in Washington D.C. She is a soon to be graduating senior at American University studying Literature with a minor in Communications. Maggie is passionate about poetry, elementary education, blogging, and R&B music. She loves to cook and try new cuisines and considers herself a textbook Virgo.