28 Feb Shipping the Green Way
It’s important to consider all aspects of your business if you plan on being an environmentally-friendly company. Shipping is one area that can make a big difference.
No matter how you send your packages, shipping product costs a lot both financially and environmentally. Fossil fuel pollution, paper and packaging waste…there are ways to improve your budget and remain environmentally conscious.
Whenever possible, opt for using recycled and recyclable packaging. Various certifications are designed to make sure the box you use to ship your product is environmentally friendly. Using boxes from sustainably managed forests is a great start. Look for Forestry Stewardship Council packaging. Also look for Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certified boxes. These boxes and packaging feature adhesives and inks that are not harmful to the environment, in addition to recycled content. Be aware you may pay more for these packaging options, in some cases almost one-third more.
Try to find a sustainable, eco-friendly filling material for your packaging as well. Styrofoam used to be the gold standard for protecting your product during shipping but it’s petroleum based, non-sustainable and hazardous to the environment (including generating a huge amount of pollutants during its production). Consider, instead, a biodegradable or sustainable fibre-filler such as corrugated inserts. The biodegradable filler is often very competitive in price with the traditional styrofoam packing peanuts. You may also find reducing the size and volume of the packaging uses fewer materials. Smaller packaging also uses less space on trucks, planes and boats, improving carbon footprint. Smaller packaging also means less material used. Fewer materials used means less cost, improving the bottom line of the company. It also increases the speed with which your product hits the market.
There are also ‘green’ shippers available to move your packages for you. The SmartWay Program, developed and implemented by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, provides information on low-emission transport companies. Members that are SmartWay certified are monitored for everything from proper tire inflation to how often and how long a delivery vehicle sits idling. The EPA releases an up-to-date performance ranking for their freight shipping members every Monday afternoon. It’s a great place to start looking.
Schedule pickup for your packages instead of driving to the shipping office yourself. Delivery trucks are already out and about making their rounds. The major delivery service routes are already designed and optimized for fuel-efficiency and delivery services usually allow companies to give their packages directly to the regular delivery driver.
It’s also advisable to develop a ‘green’ oriented return plan for return shipments. As online sales have boomed over the last decade, so have the number of returns. Processing a returned item may be ecologically irresponsible due to the fuel consumption and the pollution that’s created by sending the product back. However, if the defective goods are simply destroyed instead of returned it’s an entirely different environmental approach to disposal. If the return isn’t a terribly valuable item, consider sending a new replacement product instead of requesting the old one back – eliminating the pollution caused by any return shipping. More valuable merchandise can be accepted as a return and then refurbished instead of wasting the original materials used to make the product.