Concern for the environment is more than just a fad. The world has been plagued by wildfires, melting arctic habitats, and literal climate change. But many don’t understand the importance of the individual use of green alternatives. These are small changes that can help reduce the toll on our environment. “Green” and “environmentally-friendly” are often used synonymously. But they are far from the same. Green means an item or service is sustainable, meaning it avoids depleting natural resources and limits negative ecological effects on the environment. Environmentally friendly or eco-friendly are terms that highlight a reduction in their toll on the environment. The goal of all of these initiatives is to undo or at least mitigate damage done to the environment.
The growing popularity of two-day shipping means there’s a significant increase in items being shipped. This can be great for the economy but bad for the environment. The rush to ship means less attention is being paid to strategically shipping items to reduce waste. For example, rather than bulking purchases together to reduce shipping materials you may receive three packages in a week. That’s three full boxes filled with other shipping materials, which can lead to an excess of waste. Not to mention the use of fossil fuels to transport them. Luckily, there are some green initiatives that can help reduce the environmental fallout of excessive shipping.
The Paper Problem
Given how much time is spent on screens, you’d expect a reduction in our reliance on paper. Demand for paper is expected to double by 2030. Not to mention to produce virgin paper requires cutting down trees and destroying natural habitats. The paper industry is the 5th largest consumer of energy in the world. It uses 4% of the world’s energy. To produce 1 ton of virgin paper, it is estimated that 253 gallons of fuel are used. Meanwhile, one tree can provide enough oxygen for three people to breathe. Which begs the question… is this amount of waste necessary?
In addition to paper, the use of plastic takes a toll on the environment. Discarded plastic in the form of bubble wrap or other plastic shipping materials can cause environmental pollution as they degrade. Plastic also contributes to the destruction of ocean populations as animals can consume, choke or get caught in plastic waste. In addition to paper and plastic, the fuel used shipping these items can increase carbon emissions. In the excitement of receiving free rush shipping it can be easy to miss what this is doing to the planet.
Luckily, there are some changes taking place. Green shipping initiatives are reshaping how we look at the transportation of goods. Everything from more biodegradable shipping materials, to strategies in shipping for better fuel management can all provide benefits to addressing the environmental problem.
Green Shipping Materials
Cardboard, along with other shipping products, can account for about 26 percent of the waste in the U.S. landfills. While many of these materials can be reused, some of these materials are not biodegradable. There are also new mailers available that use recycled paper pulp rather than plastic bubble wrap. Shredded paper can also be used in lieu of plastic-packaged air or bubble wrap in boxes. This means more of your shipping materials are recyclable.
Recycling one ton of cardboard can save:
- 7,000 gallons of water.
- 9 cubic yards of landfill space.
- 250 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
In addition to reducing paper, there is a movement to reduce non-biodegradable shipping materials. Standard styrofoam packing peanuts do not biodegrade which means that they just stick around taking space in landfills. Not only do they take up space, they also leak the harmful toxin Styrene. It’s unsafe when consumed and could potentially mix with groundwater and ultimately be consumed by humans or animals. It can cause damage we may not be aware of until it’s too late. Luckily, there has been a large push to make packing materials from corn starch, mushrooms and even seaweed. Cornstarch packing peanuts are not just biodegradable. They can be used in compost or even dissolved in water. Talk about waste reduction.
The simplest way to reduce waste in shipping is to have the proper sized shipping containers and more strategic planning. The excess of container space means the more material needed to fill the container. It also means that you are misusing resources and then putting that on your customer. They’ll likely simply throw this away and just continue creating waste. With proper strategic planning there can also be a reduction in the amount of fuel being used. Fast, cheap, and easy while great for the bottom line may not be good for the bottom line of the planet.
Green Shipping Methods
Keys to green shipping methods are keeping an eye on fuel usage. This makes cleaning and servicing vehicles a priority. Trucks that have not been serviced are less likely to effectively use fuel which will increase their carbon emissions. Additionally, trucks making empty runs or drivers sleeping in idle vehicles means major mismanagement of fuel. This means that they are releasing more of the toxins in the atmosphere that are raising our planet’s temperatures.
Fuel efficiency is not just important for freight shipping. Maritime shipping can contribute its own portion to pollution.There are growing green maritime shipping initiatives to help optimize the amount of fuel being used on freighters. There’s a movement towards sails that harness wind energy to replace up to 20 percent of a ship’s fossil fuel consumption. Some models are working to add built-in solar panels to utilize greener forms of energy.
Samsung Heavy Industries Co. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have developed a new system to reduce friction between the ship and the water. The system releases tiny bubbles to create a lubricating layer that helps the ship cut through the water and reduce fuel consumption by 4-5%. Additionally, there are small robots being developed to remove barnacles and other living things that gather on the hulls of ships. Removing this debris cuts down on the ship’s drag and increases their fuel efficiency.
It may be some time before we have completely clean energy or can deliver packages with a limited toll on the environment. But effective time and resource management are the key to reduce your carbon footprint. Capitalizing on cutting edge technologies for better fuel management helps both the environment and your bottom dollar. Border Buddy is committed to helping importers and exporters avoid finance-draining and environmentally unfriendly choices by giving you the information you need to make responsible choices.
Border Buddy wants to help you with your international shipping. We strive to provide simple solutions and effective management of your imports and exports. We’re happy to help with simple transitions or complex cases. And we’d love to help you explore your greener shipping options. Contact us at Border Buddy.