We all want to do our part to reduce our impact on the environment. Well, just because ecommerce operates online doesn’t mean that we’re guilty of being unkind to Mother Nature. Here are a few ways to make your fulfillment operations a little more eco-friendly.
Reuse and Recycle
There are truckloads of materials making their way into your warehouse each day, many of which can be recycled through a local program or reused somewhere else in your operations. Set up sortable bins near all trash receptacles, packing, receiving, and returns stations throughout the warehouse, and even in the employee break areas to ensure that anything recyclable gets included. Bubble-wrap and packing peanuts can be used again, and a vendor can easily reuse or recycle cardboard and paper. Below is a picture of our cardboard baling machine. This fantastic beast helps us crush and bale thousands of pounds of cardboard into small, easy-to-manage pieces that can be quickly recycled without taking up a ton of room in the warehouse.
We do all of our selling electronically as ecommerce businesses, so why not run our businesses that way as well? Consider moving to a paperless order management system, where everything from POs to packing slips are paperless. Give customers the option to house everything online versus paper, and work with your vendors to receive invoices and credits digitally instead of via fax or mail. Consider investing in RFID technology to eliminate the need for paper pick lists or receiving documents, too.
There are various ways you can reduce waste related to order packaging, whether it’s reusing materials received from vendors and returns or reducing the amount you use altogether. Work with your vendors to eliminate inbound freight packaging by sending their items as ‘ready to shelf and ship’ as they can. Set guidelines at the pack stations for ‘materials use’ to limit the amount of waste you’re sending with your orders. Suppose you have breakable items that require some extra packaging. In that case, you can also purchase packing materials that are eco-friendly for a reasonable price, like the edible packing peanuts we use in our warehouse, instead of plastic or Styrofoam products.
In the Warehouse
Go greener in the warehouse by:
- Investing in green building standards when you’re building new or leasing a new space.
- Using energy-saving light bulbs in warehouses, offices, and contact centers.
- Let the sun shine! Utilize sunlight as a natural light source whenever you can, and consider the opportunity to use solar or wind energy.
- Identify inbound and outbound freight lanes that will minimize transportation routes, resulting in less fuel, fewer carbon emissions, and faster delivery times.
Need more ideas that might make a big difference? Check out the US Green Building Council’s LEED certification program – even if you don’t plan on trying to get a certification, you can find some helpful hints on areas to improve in your facilities.