Shipping is an inherently carbon-intensive action. When we send or receive packages they are likely transported by an airplane or road freight vehicle, both of which use large amounts of energy and produce substantial carbon emissions (especially in the case of air freight). Some things are also shipped by rail or by sea, both less carbon-intensive methods but also much less common. Shipping and transportation contributes to about 20% of worldwide total energy consumption (source). So what steps can we take to reduce our shipping carbon footprint?
One easy thing that every one can do is purchase carbon offsets. Carbon offsets are basically the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) in one area to offset the carbon emissions in another (in this case, shipping). A business or individual pays for a carbon offset, and that money is used to fund projects that reduce GHGs. These projects commonly include renewable energy (e.g. solar, wind, geothermal), methane collection, and carbon sequestration.
If you use UPS, FedEx or USPS, you can use Green Shipping as an easy way to offset your package’s carbon footprint. Take the tracking number of your package and enter it into Green Shipping’s calculator to determine its carbon footprint. Then you can purchase the right amount of offsets to make your purchase completely carbon neutral. Accounts are free for individuals, and they also offer business tools for any business that wants to offset the carbon emissions produced by their shipping. Green Shipping uses Bonneville Environment Foundation as their offset partner, certified by Green-e and endorsed by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Another great option is to purchase eco-friendly shipping supplies. The number of companies that use recycled materials is on the rise, but here are just a few to get you started:
- USPS priority mail boxes: In 2007, USPS became the first shipper to get Cradle to Cradle certification at the silver level. This is a third-party certification that reviews specific criteria to assess the environmental attributes of materials used in products. MBDC examined a total of 1,4000 individual ingredients in 60 packaging items before awarding the certification, and based their decision on criteria such as toxicity, renewable energy, water stewardship, and recyclability.
- Caremail: All of Caremail‘s products use recycled materials, in a range from 50 to 100% post-consumer recovered fiber. Most are recyclable and/or biodegradable, and several are re-usable. Their packaging peanuts are also biodegradable, because they use potato starch instead of styrofoam.
- Globe Guard products: Globe Guard products carry a variety of shipping materials that use recycled materials; for example, their corrugated boxes are made from 100% post-consumer waste material. Globe Guard also donates one percent of each online purchase to 1% For the Planet, an organization that brings together over one thousand eco-minded businesses that contribute to its qualified environmental organizations.