Greener Shipping: How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint without Hurting Your Business

Greener shipping concept with a green truck

Greener Shipping Without Hurting Your Business

By now most of us are well aware that environmental degradation is a major issue affecting many facets of life in communities around the globe. From sprawling wildfires and melting ice to plastic and microfiber pollution, our land, air, and seas are in jeopardy. Among the most prominent contributors to this problem is the shipping industry, whose staggering aircraft and vehicle emissions and consumption of packaging materials are just a part of doing business. What’s more, so-called advancements like one-day shipping carry heavy costs to the environment even as they enhance our abilities to serve our customers.

In a world where so much of the economy hinges on the shipping of goods, how can we continue evolving our businesses while also protecting the planet? In this post we’ll discuss a number of ways to “green” your shipping—and maybe save a little cash at the same time.

Measure Your Footprint

Before you can begin to reduce your impact on the environment, you first need to assess how big that impact is. One way to do this is through the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay program. This voluntary, no-cost program “helps companies advance supply chain sustainability by measuring, benchmarking, and improving freight transportation efficiency.” Not only does the program help you establish your commitment to greener shipping, but it also offers tools, metrics, and data to assess your eco baseline and guide future decision-making.

Go Small

In our blog post “How to Reduce Your Single Parcel Packaging Costs” we discussed money-saving strategies that have the added benefit of a lower environmental impact. These include using smaller shipping boxes, which require less packing material and help you avoid extra costs imposed by policies like dimensional weight pricing. Better yet, ditch the box altogether and opt instead for bags or mailers made from 100% recycled or compostable materials. Another tip is to look for products with eco-related certifications, like FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative).

Get Educated about Carriers’ Eco Efforts

In recent years both UPS and FedEx have made great strides in shrinking their carbon footprints through a variety of initiatives. In its 2018 Corporate Sustainability Progress Report, UPS highlights a 16.5% reduction in carbon intensity between 2007 and 2018 through its Global Forestry Initiative, the use of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles, and other efforts. In its 2019 Global Citizenship Report, FedEx touts a 37% reduction in CO2 emissions between 2009 and 2018 achieved through a combination of aircraft and vehicle efficiency, sustainable facilities, and sustainable materials and recycling.

In addition to sharing the progress they have made in the environmental and sustainability sphere, these carriers also offer eco-shipping tips for their customers. For example, see FedEx’s “7 Eco-Friendly Packaging Tips for Small Businesses” and UPS’s “Sustainable Packaging” article. Additionally, UPS offers customers a way to offset the carbon emissions created through the shipment of their packages. With the carbon-neutral shipping option, customers pay a small flat fee and choose from a number of environmental projects to support. UPS then calculates the carbon emissions resulting from the shipment and donates to the customer’s chosen cause in the equivalent amount.

Take Advantage of Tax Incentives

In addition to the myriad other benefits of reducing your business’s carbon footprint, there may be tax-related advantages to your new green shipping practices. According to the Green Business Bureau, the U.S. government offers tax incentives on both the state and federal levels as well as a number of grants, subsidies, and financing programs for businesses that opt to go green. Visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) to find programs and policies in your state that will support and reward your eco efforts.

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