How Couriers Can Reduce Their Carbon Footprint and Help Protect the Environment

Over 20 years ago, 1994 to be precise, something very significant happened, the event would change the lives of people all around the world forever and its impact on the global economy was to be of seismic proportions.

The event caused a chain reaction that continues to this day and will continue into the foreseeable future – what was the event? In 1994, the first secure online retail transaction was made. In the same year Amazon was founded and the following year eBay was launched. The way in which people shopped began to rapidly change and this meant that retailers had to change too.

To capitalize on this change and to keep up with demand, the parcel delivery and courier sector also needed to change. It needed to expand, become more efficient and to innovate – how was this achieved and what is the sector now doing to reduce the carbon footprint of an industry that relies so heavily on fleets of vehicles to transport parcels?

Integrating Digital Technology

Companies like TNT were the first to integrate digital technology and GPS is perhaps the most significant example of how technology has helped couriers become faster, more efficient and thus reduce their carbon footprint.

The ability to find the best routes to use, to avoid congestion and accidents that would slow them down and not getting lost has revolutionized the way couriers operate day to day.

In addition to GPS, the digitizing of delivery addresses, tracking and other logistical information has ensured that parcel delivery companies can meet the, forever growing, expectations of their customers.

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But the story doesn’t end there, companies are constantly looking for new ways to be greener and more energy efficient for their customers and clients.

Electric and Driverless Vehicles

Electric vehicles have started to appear on our roads and motorways may prove to be an extremely effective way for the courier sector to drastically reduce its carbon footprint. There is no doubt that electric cars will drive down problems caused by the emissions from cars that use petrol or diesel, but many would argue that electric cars, if broadly adopted, will themselves cause environmental issues – the way we source lithium, being one of them.

Driverless cars are another avenue currently being explored as a way for couriers to become greener. Ocado, the online supermarket, for example, have recently tested a driverless vehicle in London and are hoping to be an early adopter of the technology.

The vehicle used in the trial was small, designed specifically to operate in a densely populated urban area where larger vehicles are not allowed. Optimising pick-ups and deliveries by using an appropriately sized vehicle makes for a super energy efficient service.

Perhaps the most innovative method by which companies are looking to deliver packages and lower their carbon footprint, is by the employment of drones and robots. Amazon are one of the companies leading the way here and who are soon hoping to be able to deliver items in 30 minutes or less. And, Zipline, another American company, are already using drones in some African countries, Rwanda being one of them, to deliver medical supplies quickly and safely.

When it comes to “the last mile” delivery, however, little is more eco-friendly than pedal power and some companies are looking to bicycles for more sustainability.  Take a company like Deliveroo who make all their deliveries to customers through using bikes and pedal power. This in turn produces zero emissions and impact on the environment.

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Green Distribution Centres

Energy efficient distribution centres can play a very important role in making the parcel delivery and courier sector more environmentally friendly.

Many centres need to be heated or cooled, or be able to control the humidity in order to keep the items housed there in tip top condition. Buildings need to be designed and constructed in a way that optimizes the use of energy, if they are to be green.

Indoor loading bays, that stop cold weather entering well insulated buildings and solar panels are good examples of how the shell of the building can lower and keep down its carbon footprint.

In addition to the shell of the building being energy efficient, things like lighting need to be considered, lighting that can be programmed to come on and switch off when needed will save energy and money. You can always make use of energy saving bulbs which save greatly and cut down the use of power and energy wasted through unnecessary use.

Operations inside the centre can be made more efficient with ibot systems that will automate the storing and picking of boxes and parcels. Done this way the process is fast, accurate and more sustainable than, for example, using forklift trucks and manual labour.

A Little Help from Friends

Encouraging their customers to help fight the battle for sustainability is another initiative that the parcel delivery and courier sector has put into action and use.

They are increasingly encouraging the use of recyclable packaging by retailers, suppliers and private sellers using websites like eBay to sell items.

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Some companies also give customers the opportunity to donate to a charity when they use their services – for a slightly increased fee. These and other donations made from company profits are a way of engaging in carbon offsetting.

Carbon offsetting, in this way, refers to the process of matching some of the negative consequences of a company’s operations with positive activities, forestation projects being a good example.

The parcel delivery and courier sector has grown to be an extraordinarily large and complex industry and this is mainly due to the explosion of online ecommerce. The profits to be made are massive, however, so is the responsibility to act in a manner that is sustainable and more energy efficient.

The sector has made great progress in this area, but needs to continue to invest in the research and development of technology that will allow for enduring sustainability, efficiency and expedition.

Image credit: pixabay
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