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Earth Day 2024: How businesses can reduce waste, profitably

Earth Day 2024: How businesses can reduce waste, profitably
Earth Day 2024: How businesses can reduce waste, profitably

Certain industries are in a predicament as the world gears up for Earth Day 2024. Environmental consciousness is rapidly gaining momentum, but it’s not always easy (or affordable) for those in logistics, e-commerce, delivery, and retail to go green.

Reducing plastic footprints while maintaining profitability can be a delicate balancing act. 

Home-delivered food, for example, has a huge climate cost. According to a University of Melbourne study, Australians placed 27 million online food orders in 2018. This year (2024), it’s estimated to increase to 65 million.

The increasing use of takeaway food packaging makes the sector’s “massive carbon footprint even larger.” The study found that packaging from burger meals was responsible for the most emissions, followed by Thai meals. 

Earth Day e-commerce

Fortunately, companies can embrace a greener future in several ways without compromising their bottom line. In fact, reducing their environmental impact gives them a competitive edge.

Let’s explore some of the ways. 

Sustainable packaging 

Companies can reduce plastic waste by adopting eco-friendly packaging materials like biodegradable or recycled options. Amazon is leading the way with its goal of reducing single-use plastic packaging

Some of the sustainable practices implemented by the e-commerce giant include reducing CO2 emissions per package and even dropping the use of boxes in Australia. Amazon also partnered with manufacturers to design packaging options to meet the challenge. 

Does it impact profit? Amazon’s Janet Menzies explains: “We’ve already achieved a lot, shipping more than triple the orders to customers with no added delivery packaging in Australia since 2021. We are working to ship even more deliveries the same way.”

ALSO READ: Amazon drops boxes in Australia

Earth Day and green logistics

Companies in the logistics sector can reduce their environmental footprint through various ways: 

  • By optimizing routes, 
  • Using electric or hybrid vehicles and 
  • Implementing eco-friendly practices in warehouses.

Technology such as AI and IoT greatly enables more sustainable and efficient supply chain operations. IoT, for example, can be used for real-time monitoring of a vehicle’s location while keeping track of fuel usage, engine status, and driver behavior. 

Route optimization can also reduce carbon emissions by focusing on fuel economy, reducing idle time, avoiding congested areas, and lessening unnecessary braking or acceleration. 

Companies with hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) have an added advantage since they produce significantly lower emissions than their fossil fuel-powered counterparts. 

By incorporating hybrid and EVs into their fleets, companies can maximize their environmental benefits while cutting costs and maintenance expenses in the long run.

Retail and circular economy

While eco-friendly packaging and green logistics are important steps towards sustainability, the concept of a circular economy is often overlooked as a powerful tool for reducing waste in the retail industry.

A circular economy aims to keep products and materials in use for as long as possible. This minimizes waste and maximizes resource efficiency. In retail, this is seen in designing products that are durable, repairable, and recyclable. 

Some retailers, for example, introduced take-back programs where customers can return used products for repair or refurbishment. Others have experimented with rental and subscription models, allowing customers to access products without actually owning the item. 

Earth Day 2024 theme

Earth Day is “not a day, it’s a movement.” More specifically, it’s a global movement, with the official event taking place annually on 22 April. 

Previous Earth Day and Earth Week events tackled various environmental issues; this year is no different. This year’s commemorations will take place under the theme ‘Planet vs. Plastics.’ 

This year’s campaign aims to raise awareness around plastic pollution and the harm it causes to humans, the environment, and the planet. This year’s event comes ahead of the UN treaty on plastics, which is set to reach an agreement by the end of 2024. 

Even though more than 50 countries have committed to ending plastic pollution by 2040, this year’s event will take it one step further. The organizers are calling for a massive 60% reduction in the production of all plastics within the next 16 years. 

Earth Day fact sheet

The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970 when US senator and environmentalist Gaylord Nelson joined forces with Denis Hayes, a graduate student at Harvard University. Both were passionate about reducing environmental damage in the US. 

A large oil spill in 1969 in Santa Barbara, California, propelled them into action, and Earth Day was set up to introduce sustainable initiatives to the national agenda. More than 20 million participated in the first event, taking to the streets of Philadelphia.

Twenty years later, it was a global event, engaging more than one billion people from 192 countries annually. To date, 100s of millions of trees have been planted, more than seven billion Green School grants have been issued, and 15 million cleanup volunteers have offered their time and support. 

About the author

Cheryl has contributed to various international publications, with a fervor for data and technology. She explores the intersection of emerging tech trends with logistics, focusing on how digital innovations are reshaping industries on a global scale. When she's not dissecting the latest developments in AI-driven innovation and digital solutions, Cheryl can be found gaming, kickboxing, or navigating the novel niches of consumer gadgetry.

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