We all want to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint, right? Well, just because ecommerce operates online doesn’t mean that we’re not guilty of being less than kind to Mother Nature. Here are a few ways you can make your fulfillment operations a little more eco-friendly.
Reuse and Recycle
There are literally 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, at packing, receiving, and returns stations throughout the warehouse, and even in the employee break areas to make sure that anything recyclable gets included. Bubble-wrap and packing peanuts can be used again, and cardboard and paper can easily be reused or recycled through a vendor. This awesome beast in our warehouse 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!
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 via online account versus paper, and work with your vendors to receive invoices and credits digitally instead of via fax or snail mail. Consider investing in RFID technology to eliminate the need for paper pick lists or receiving documents, too. You’d be surprised how many warehouses are still operating with an excessive paper trail!
There are a variety of 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. If you have breakable items that require some extra packaging, you can also purchase packing materials that are eco-friendly for a reasonable price (like the edible packing peanuts we use in our warehouse, for example!) in lieu of plastic or Styrofoam products. You can even make a game out of recycled packaging – print a custom link or QR code on every box, then encourage customers to use it for returns and ‘track’ its journey.
In the Warehouse
This is where the inventory is stored, and much activity happens here as well. Go greener in the warehouse by:
- Investing in green building standards (if 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 if you can
- Identify inbound and outbound freight lanes that will minimize transportation routes, resulting in less fuel, fewer carbon emissions, and faster delivery times!
Need a few 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 for a certification, you can find some helpful hints on areas to improve in your buildings and home!