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E-commerce under pressure to reduce carbon footprint

E-commerce under pressure to reduce carbon footprint
E-commerce under pressure to reduce carbon footprint

Online retailers are under the microscope, with increasing pressure to reduce their carbon footprint. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the transportation sector accounts for about 29% of the total US greenhouse gas emissions. That means burning fossil fuel for vehicles, trucks and ships is the main culprit. EPA’s report states that more than 94% of the fuel used by this sector is petroleum based, including gasoline and diesel. 

Traditional shopping has twice the carbon footprint compared to online shopping, according to a study by MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics. However, it states that for same-day delivery the emissions far exceed the impact left by in-person shopping. With trucks filled at half capacity, generating more traffic, the impact is harsh. That’s why more companies like Locate2u’s CEO Steve Orenstein advocate for route optimization to reduce the impact significantly. 

The environment pays a price when people have options in the palm of their hands, items delivered to their doorsteps within minutes. The world produces 86 million tons of plastic packaging each year. Less than 14% is recycled.

How can online retailers improve carbon footprint?

Appliances Online, the largest retailer of its kind in Australia, is now offering same-day delivery of big and bulky home equipment, instead of its usual next-day service. That’s giving anyone stuck at home the complete peace of mind that if something breaks down at home, help is on its way almost instantly. That could place enormous pressure on the environment by encouraging users to buy and replace items without thinking about how to discard the damaged items. However more companies like Appliances Online are now thinking of creative ways to improve the impact on the environment. It’s also offering to remove and recycle the old appliances upon supplying customers with the new order. More companies will have to incorporate options like this in their going-green plans. 

A war on climate change: how can I change my carbon footprint?

There is currently no legislation in place with specific requirements and expectations from big and small companies to reduce their carbon footprint. Accountability will soon move into that direction, according to Oberstein. “Consumers are going to choose companies that are making sure they’re thinking about the environment. We have to be doing this. More and more companies and consumers will show they’re going to spend their money where people are thinking about the environment.”

If businesses want to attract or retain customers, efforts to reduce green footprints will be a determining factor when customers make their choices online. 

How route optimization improve carbon footprint?

Map operators are collecting more data every day to optimize routes available to drivers. Therefore more cost effective and faster paths are used during the last-mile delivery. In high densely populated areas in cities, more vehicles on the roads mean more traffic congestion. The release of more toxic gasses are then prevelant. More toxic gasses are then released into the atmosphere too.

Orenstein says this is one of the most valuable things about route optimization. “When a driver is going into a new area and they don’t know it, he/she can just follow the map. They don’t need to know the area or have to be thinking about what’s the order. All they have to do is follow the system. It gives them the route and they just make it really simple for the driver.”

The number of drivers on the road has been an increasing problem for the delivery space. This can be reduced with the help of technology like GPS tracking devices. “I think it’s a combination of thinking about what are the most efficient ways to deliver parcels, making sure you’re doing time windows, you making those delivery runs as dense as they possibly can. Instead of having 20 drivers to do the deliveries, rather try to use route optimization and reduce those numbers of drivers that are required,” says Orenstein. He believes this will lead to a valuable reduction in the amount of greenhouse gas that’s been emitted from these vehicles on the road. 

The future of greener solutions

The world is moving towards electric powered vehicles, as technology continues to improve and more energy solutions are explored. What will the future look like? Orenstein encourages more companies to give new technology a try. “We are starting to see companies thinking about experimenting with this. That’s going to continue to happen into the future. Live GPS tracking and data analysis make it best to constantly improve routes and carbon footprint.”

About the author

Mia is a multi-award-winning journalist. She has more than 14 years of experience in mainstream media. She's covered many historic moments that happened in Africa and internationally. She has a strong focus on human interest stories, to bring her readers and viewers closer to the topics at hand.

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