For decades now, scientists have been warning about the warming planet and its adverse consequences that will affect generations to come. More than ever, the impact of climate change is becoming more apparent.
Globally, people are experiencing more frequent and more intense hurricanes, warmer summers and winters, rising sea levels, and mass extinctions. Recently, scientists detected that in 2020, the planet was spinning on its axis faster than ever recorded. One of the reasons being suggested is the melting of glaciers caused by climate change.
It is a serious problem, but one that can be addressed by making significant changes that will minimize the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Although policy changes can make the most impact, the fight against climate change requires the participation of everyone — from massive corporations and small businesses to every individual consumer.
What can businesses do?
The Case Against Online Shopping
Retail is rapidly shifting toward e-commerce. As more people use and own smartphones, consumers can more easily access goods and services online.
There have been claims that online shopping is more eco-friendly compared to the traditional brick and mortar store. The products all come from one site, which means that far lesser resources are used than stocking items across multiple shops.
However, online shopping still has a massive carbon footprint. These products still have to travel miles from the warehouse to its destination. Sometimes, the products have to cross borders and oceans to get to the customer.
Moreover, tonnes of plastic packaging is needed to secure the product and ensure that it arrives in great shape. All these plastic packagings are single-use and, often, will not be recycled.
Also, online shopping comes with returns and replacements. Customers cannot fully know if they want the product or not until they receive it. There is a huge possibility that they will ship it back if they are unhappy with the product’s quality, or they were sent a broken item. This further contradicts claims that online shopping is actually good for the environment.
Minimizing Carbon Footprint
However, that does not mean that nothing else can be done. Corporations can make changes that will reduce the carbon footprint of online shopping.
First, delivery services can be better improved. The use of fuel management systems, which are available in the United Kingdom, can monitor drivers and vehicles’ performance to cut costs. By doing so, they reduce wastage of fuel and, therefore, improve the carbon footprint of an entire fleet. These systems can also calculate emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, to make the service better informed about its environmental impact.
Drones in the Last Mile
Companies have also started testing the use of drones for last-mile deliveries. While packages often have to travel miles to get to their destination, their carbon footprint is relatively low because they are transported in bulk. A lorry is filled with several thousand boxes, all of which are heading to the same specific town.
It is the last-mile delivery that causes quite a problem. Once the lorry delivers packages to a warehouse, another fleet of vehicles will be deployed to hand each one to their respective owners.
Drones have been touted as the eco-friendly alternative. Alphabet, which owns the company Wing, cuts carbon dioxide emissions by reducing road traffic. Rechargeable batteries power most drones.
Right now, however, drones are still in the testing phase, and the machines can only carry small parcels. Whether they will be fulfilling last-mile deliveries en masse in the future is still unclear.
Businesses can also cut the waste generated by online shopping by using biodegradable packaging. Styrofoam may protect products from accidental bumps and falls, but they do not decompose, especially in a landfill where most of them end up. Moreover, the filling material is made of petroleum.
There is an increasing number of more eco-friendly alternatives in the market. Some businesses sell packaging made of mushrooms. Because it is created using a natural material, it can be added to a compost pile where it will rot and disappear without a trace.
The cost of eco-friendly packaging is still quite high, but it is a sacrifice that businesses and consumers should be willing to make for the planet’s sake. In addition, as demand for it increases, more eco-friendly packaging alternatives will appear on the market, driving the cost down.
There is no escaping online shopping and, as early as now, companies and consumers can make changes to reduce their impact on the environment before things go out of control.