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Eco-Logistics: The Green Revolution in Last-Mile Delivery

Environmentalism and sustainability are increasingly important concerns across every industry. A recent study by the IBM Institute for Business Value demonstrated that over half of all consumers today regard sustainability as a key factor that is more significant than it was this time last year. 

According to the same report, nearly half of all consumers are willing to pay extra to ensure that the products they receive are sustainable. Environmental stewardship has become a key concern for executive leadership, with over 50% noting this goal as a key priority over the coming years. 

When it comes to the transformation of industries to embrace environmental sustainability and new eco-friendly practices, e-commerce shipping and transportation are no exception. In this article, we will take a look at the environmental impacts of traditional delivery. Then we will delve into cutting-edge technologies and strategies for reimagining the delivery landscape. 

We will investigate specific sustainable shipping techniques for 2023 that can help organizations cut back on harmful carbon emissions and reduce their ecological footprints.

Environmental Impacts of Shipping and Delivery 

Traditional forms of last mile delivery contribute heavily to global carbon emissions and environmental concerns. With the recent rise in e-commerce that skyrocketed during the global coronavirus pandemic, there are more last mile delivery drivers out on the streets than ever before. This leads to high levels of traffic congestion, and harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

An e-commerce organization’s supply chain typically accounts for a whopping 90% of their total greenhouse gas emissions. Last mile deliveries are generally responsible for 5% of this total amount. Of course, these percentages can change depending on the products, methods of delivery, location, and more. But generally speaking, traditional forms of last mile delivery make up a notable part of the ecological problem. 

According to a McKinsey report, more traffic congestion globally could create a 25% boost in regular carbon dioxide emissions inside urban centers. So finding ways to alter carbon emissions is a vital part of boosting the sustainability and ecological soundness of e-commerce organizations across the board.

Environmentally Friendly Delivery Technology

Let’s take a look at some of the specific new technologies e-commerce organizations are using to provide superior service to their customers, while minimizing the harmful impact on the environment. 

Electric Delivery Vehicles

The consumer market for electric vehicles is witnessing a boom moment, as annual electric vehicle sales are expected to exceed one million this year. In the realm of deliveries and commercial transportation, electric vehicles such as vans can allow commercial organizations to significantly cut back on operating costs and reduce their level of carbon emissions. 

Electric delivery vehicles are available from a number of start-ups, and major national car manufacturing corporations such as General Motors and Ford have jumped on the bandwagon as well. In March of this year, the United States Postal Service placed an order for over 9000 electric vehicles that will go into the postage delivery service by the end of next year.

Delivery Route Planner Apps

Inefficiency is often a key driver of energy and resource wastage that contributes to environmental harm. Delivery route planner apps take a proactive position that allows companies to pre-program their driver’s delivery routes in order to streamline the entire delivery process, crafting straightforward routes that cut back on time, cost, and energy waste. 

Utilizing widely available smartphone technology, delivery route planner apps allow company managers to access real-time updates to optimize the delivery routes to find the most efficient route of travel. The app will calculate the best route to encompass information including the time of day, traffic conditions, and how many stops will be made along the way.

Drone Deliveries

Drone delivery is on the rise. As of early 2022 the number of air deliveries completed by drones each day totalled more than 2,000, and that number is predicted to continue to grow with each passing month. Major corporations such as Amazon, UPS, and even Domino’s Pizza have already invested in the development of drone delivery technology. This streamlined delivery method will be able to fulfil last-mile consumer use delivery needs in addition to important B2B deliveries. 

Drones will be able to transport small items, including cooked food, as well as medical samples and other time sensitive objects, and can operate in areas that are difficult to reach and have poor quality roads. Drones create significantly lower carbon emissions than traditional delivery cars or vans, and even lower emissions than electric vehicles. Rather than delivering a prepared lunch with a diesel truck, companies can cut down their carbon footprint by sending a drone.

Micro-Fulfillment Centers

Micro-fulfillment centers may just be the answer to minimizing the damaging environmental impact of massive consumer transportation operations such as Amazon. Micro-fulfillment centers, or MFCs, provide smaller scale storage facilities in warehouses located closer to consumer bases. These storage facilities utilize automation technology to create more efficient storage solutions. This means that a larger quantity of items can be stored in a smaller size location, with less distance to travel to reach its recipient. 

Micro-fulfillment centers can store goods for both e-commerce delivery and local pick-ups, so they offer mutiple modes of functionality. Since they are located closer to consumers, they cut down on harmful carbon emissions produced by long distance travels, and reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by last-mile deliveries. 

Since MFCs take up a smaller surface area than traditional warehouses and require less frequent maintenance, they inherently cut back on energy and resource wastage. MFCs that use automated warehouse storage solutions can cut back the amount of space needed to store items by significant percentages, thus cutting back on the amount of energy required to maintain the space overall. And MFCs can cut back on the amount of wasteful packaging that a traditional warehouse system would use.

Final Thoughts

While companies continue to work to meet their customers’ needs, offering quick and efficient delivery practices, they can also embrace new technologies that will not only cut back on costs, but also on dangerous carbon emissions. 

New technology and strategies can allow delivery companies to adapt to the changing standards in an environmentally aware way. Green is the way forward, and companies that work to build sustainability into their core delivery methods can provide a more responsible online shopping experience for their customers.

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