As the world becomes increasingly digitized, more and more people are opting to do their shopping online instead of in person. The psychology of shopping has been transformed: eCommerce orders are placed within seconds with cat-like precision — our new, one-click reflex. Yet with our next-day orders promptly fulfilled (three to five working days seeming like an eternity) the reliance on swift, speedy doorstep deliveries has increased our carbon footprint tremendously.
However, to meet the supply and demand of the digital world, the courier industry has stepped up — and delivered. We’ve outlined how some businesses are tackling the drive against climate change using green energy solutions. For, as the old saying goes: it’s not about the destination, but the journey.
The courier industry is working to improve air quality and reduce carbon pollution. With ultra-low emission vehicles, including electric vans and motorbikes, transport for goods is becoming greener, cleaner, and even faster than ever before. Courier services have also been transitioning to hydrogen vans — these vehicles only emit water, if you can believe it. Using a combination of hydrogen and oxygen, these futuristic vans cleverly produce electricity en route to their destinations.
One example of a green courier implementing such changes is CitySprint, which provides a trackable next-day service that doesn’t substitute speed for sustainability. The company offers all aforementioned vehicles as part of its fleet, plus electric-assist cargo bikes, which can reportedly deliver up to 50% faster than a small van would in an urban environment — saving four tonnes of CO2 per year.
Last Mile Delivery Vehicles
Zero-emission transport is especially beneficial for the “last mile” of deliveries — the movement of goods from warehouses or suppliers to their final destination. With a standard vehicle, these deliveries have high fuel costs and extreme levels of fuel consumption and are responsible for a lot of the poor air quality in urban areas.
The rise in eCommerce orders has increased the percentage of last mile deliveries on the road, which is projected to rise by 36% by 2030. Electric vehicles can help to circumvent this though, as can PLV (powered light vehicles). These are a small, lightweight, and nippy range of two, three, and four-wheeled vehicles that can make better use of road space than traditional automobiles.
Preventing Failed Deliveries
Despite efforts to improve delivery routes and reduce carbon emissions, there remains a persistent problem for navigating the green energy transition: missed deliveries. When a driver can’t find a customer’s address, or there’s no one home to accept the package it creates unnecessary pollution from repeated attempts to fulfill orders. Failed deliveries are still very prevalent within the courier industry, costing £1.6 billion each year.
Fortunately, couriers have taken steps to avoid these types of failures. By using GPS tracking and real-time updates, courier drivers have the ability to stay on course and ensure that they always deliver on time. In addition, customers can be given the option to input their delivery preferences, such as requesting that the package be left in a specific location.
Another innovation is pick-up and drop-off lockers (PUDOs). Often located within local stores or as standalone lockers, they allow residents to accept or return deliveries at their convenience. These lockers are proving extremely effective at reducing emissions, as they eliminate the need for fuel-powered vehicles on short trips and avoid failed deliveries.
PUDOs are more efficient for operators than delivering to many individual residences since they save vehicle mileage. Plus, they significantly increase the number of packages a driver can deliver in one shift. According to research, a dense network of lockers may cut the number of delivery addresses in London from 3.5 million to 10,000. This would also reduce CO2 emissions by 16,700 tonnes, as well as delivery miles by more than 75 million annually.
Non-biodegradable polystyrene has finally had its day, thanks to the wide variety of packaging alternatives now widely available. Multifunctional bubble wrap has had an upgrade — corrugated cardboard in honeycomb-style sheets is now one great alternative, being sturdy and relatively cheap. Others include everything from Glassine, a smooth and glossy paper manufactured from wood pulp to agar pellets created from seaweed.
This is good news for the environment, but also for the conservation of the retailer. Consumer habits are changing, and those not making greener purchases risk irreversible damage. In a recent report, The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) warned that “companies that refuse to address their product packaging impacts risk damaging not only the planet but their reputation too.”
The CIM revealed in its annual poll that eight out of ten consumers want more sustainable packaging, and a third stated that if they were to receive an order with excess plastic, it would prevent them from ordering from the company again.
Of the 2,000 adults surveyed, more than a quarter of respondents would be ready to pay extra for a product if they knew the boxes, paper, and envelopes used were environmentally friendly. This information is valuable, especially to small businesses, which may not yet use sustainable packaging due to cost-related concerns.