Shipping & Fulfillment

5 Steps to Sustainable Shipping

Global ecommerce shoppers demand faster, more convenient service. The result is 36% more delivery vehicles in cities by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum. The attendant increases in global emissions, traffic congestion, and pollution will be significant if companies and consumers fail to modify behaviors and expectations.

Here are five ways companies can implement sustainable shipping practices.

Green Energy

Green energy can help businesses run more smoothly and decrease environmental impact. Companies should determine what clean energy sources are available locally and how to incorporate sustainable business strategies.

For example, robot pickers that work without lighting decrease a company’s physical footprint.

Further, solar panels on warehouse roofing can reduce energy costs while protecting the environment.

Biofuel, usually derived from plant-based material, is mostly liquid or gas. Using biofuel for transportation can result in a considerable reduction of a business’s carbon footprint.

Sustainable Packaging

Almost a third of local U.S. waste comes from containers and packaging. About 165 billion packages per year are delivered in the U.S., requiring around a billion trees’ worth of cardboard.

Ecommerce businesses that seek to improve sustainability optics often focus initially on eco-friendly packaging. Established companies such as Uline and others provide various eco-friendly packaging options.

There are many alternatives to plastic and non-recyclable paper product packaging, including:

  • Biodegradable or reusable shipping boxes,
  • Recyclable shredded paper,
  • Unpadded paper mailing envelopes,
  • Recyclable air pillows,
  • Biodegradable or reusable shipping boxes,
  • Corrugated bubble packaging,
  • Paper packaging tape,
  • Recyclable stretch wrapping,
  • Compostable or recyclable mailing envelopes.

Carbon Offsetting

Increasingly, ecommerce companies are lessening their environmental impact with carbon offsetting. This form of ecological redress began in 1989 when Applied Energy Services financed an agriforest to offset their development of a coal-fired power plant. Now carbon offsetting is a mainstream business practice., which promotes sustainability practices, reports that the global carbon offset market is now worth $262 billion.

Screenshot of home page reports that the global carbon offset market is now worth $262 billion.

There are multiple options for implementing carbon offsetting for customers, including Carbon Neutral Orders, a Shopify app by EcoCart which allows customers to add 1-2% to their order total for next-day delivery. The 1-2% surcharge might be appropriate when a customer expects next-day delivery, which is considerably less environmentally friendly than an order that takes a few days to be delivered.

It’s unlikely that a business will eliminate all carbon emissions. However, carbon offsetting minimizes emission effects and contributes to a sustainable future. All offsetting plans are not equal, and it’s wise to be cautious when implementing offsetting as a sustainability solution. Offsetting can help a business reach its environmental, social, and governance goals, but customers sometimes perceive it as greenwashing.

Reuse and Recycle

Even if a business contributes to sustainability with the most environmentally-friendly packaging possible, most will likely end up in a landfill if customers aren’t aware of other options.

Empower your buyers with information on the best ways to dispose of compostable and recyclable packaging, which might involve breaking down different types of combined packaging and disposing of it appropriately or repurposing it for their own shipping needs. Simple instructions on your website or printed information on packaging will help get the message across.

Ground-based Shipping

Depending on your location, ground-based shipping could reduce air freight and limit your carbon footprint.

You can remind shoppers about the ecological benefits of ground-based shipping while incentivizing them with reduced cost or free shipping.

Pete Bruckshaw
Pete Bruckshaw
Bio   •   RSS Feed