E-commerce as an industry is not climate friendly. Consumer packaging litters the oceans and fills landfills. Delivery trucks spew pollutants.
But many retailers are trying to improve. Other monitoring tools can help you. For example, Planetly offers a climate impact manager to identify a company’s carbon footprint – such as packaging and materials – so you know where to focus.
Carbon emissions are unavoidable for most businesses. Stopping carbon can stop the consequences. A manufacturing company in the United States can calculate its annual carbon footprint and pay for planting trees in Africa. Plants will naturally absorb an equivalent amount of CO² each year. The company can say that it is carbon neutral, even if it rejects the same amount of CO² every year.
E-commerce businesses have many payment options.
- Shopify customers can add the Offset app to their site. Working with Shopify’s Sustainability Fund, the Shop Offset payment feature enables businesses to offer their customers 100% carbon neutral delivery. This app calculates the output of each method during shipping based on distance, delivery and package weight.
- Climate Partner offers carbon offsets for e-commerce businesses, including hydropower and reforestation. Climate Partner ID numbers allow customers to track carbon reductions associated with their orders.
- Etsy removes all carbon from the packaging and delivery of all orders. Etsy deals include solar farms, wind farms and tree planting.
- Carbonfund’s Carbon Free Shipping Program helps e-commerce and shipping companies with their shipping calculators to measure the legal carbon footprint. Carbonfund’s alternative options are energy efficiency, renewable energy and forests.
Recycled packaging now includes biofilm, a biopolymer derived from sugar cane and promoted as a more eco-friendly alternative to standard polyethylene. Sugarcane Biofilm traps CO² while simultaneously releasing oxygen into the atmosphere.
Although biofilm is more expensive than regular polyethylene, other costs will decrease if less packaging is used.
One method of reduction is to use a machine to build packages based on size.
For example, a packaging machine from Sparck Technologies adapts the size and shape of the packaging material to the product(s). For the customer, there is very little to waste or recycle. For the company, there is a low price.
Compact, custom packages mean more space in delivery vehicles and reduce the number of vehicles (and carbon emissions) on the road. Note, that the capacity of the packaging machine varies and it may not work with all items or products.
E-commerce sellers can reduce waste by setting default packaging for each product sold. When a customer places an order, the operating staff will immediately know the best packaging.
Another option is to implement software like ShipStation, which has custom packaging, automation, and scheduling, ensuring the correct service and specifications for each order.
Some shipping applications will also identify separate orders from the customer, allowing for consolidation into one package, if appropriate.
Options for reducing the impact of e-commerce shipping continue to grow. Many ships include electric cars, for example.
DHL reports that 11% of carbon emissions come from shipping goods worldwide. Most of it comes from last mile shipping.
One way to reduce the impact of the last mile is to offer customers a pick-up point to pick up their order instead of having the product delivered to their door. Amazon has thousands of such delivery points.
Providing customers with user-friendly payment options promotes sustainable shipping options. The transition may take a while, but it is meeting the growing consumer demand for climate action.