Fulfillment centers play a role in every industry. The world needs these warehouses to keep the e-commerce sector alive and growing. Still, the environmental impact of those spaces is becoming a much more concerning issue than ever before.
Every warehousing professional should learn how to transform their center into a sustainable e-commerce haven and why every industry should jump at the opportunity.
By Rose Morrison, managing editor of Renovated
What Is Green Warehousing?
Traditional warehousing lends thought to factors like shipping schedules, storage space, and packaging materials. Anything that keeps orders moving through the center on time is acceptable.
Green warehousing is the idea that fulfillment centers can do more than create environmental pollution. With specific strategies, any warehouse can reduce its carbon footprint.
Why Is It Important?
Buildings aren’t passive structures that never interact with the environment. Their purpose and what happens inside them can contribute to climate change in long-term, detrimental ways.
One recent study found that the 3,000 large warehouses in California cluster in highly toxic regions that contribute the most emissions in the state. Output from a warehouse’s machinery and transportation fleets adds to local airborne emissions that quickly affect the planet as a whole.
Warehousing teams also need to consider how much waste their site creates every day, plus how much water and electricity the facility needs to operate. Standard practices that fail to take these factors into account contribute to the warehouse pollution that harms the earth.
How Do You Achieve Green Logistics?
Facility owners and management teams can start green warehousing standards by utilizing these effective strategies. A bit of time and investment will benefit the environment and the center.
Many warehousing teams use propane-fueled forklifts for distribution and stocking. The engines burn natural gas to accomplish the same work as an electric-powered forklift. Although electricity plants also contribute to a facility’s carbon footprint, it’s more eco-friendly than burning fossil fuels. Administration teams can also donate to carbon offset programs to minimize the effects of their electric pollution.
New attachments update old machinery that may contribute to a warehouse’s carbon footprint. Installing a fork onto existing heavy equipment to perform new tasks could cut down on redundant resources, like investing in multiple vehicles.
By expanding a machine’s versatility, attachments reduce the need for excess machinery that would otherwise consume natural resources to accomplish the same work.
Good lighting makes warehouses more efficient and safe. No team should compromise their lighting just to reduce their electricity usage, so switch to more eco-friendly lighting instead. Standard fluorescent bulbs consume electricity quickly, whereas light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs use up to 75% less electricity.
Changing light sources may require new permanent fixtures along the ceilings and walls. The time and investment needed will pay off when the LED lights reduce monthly electricity bills and initiate a green warehousing overhaul.
Electrified machinery and lighting can also draw power from rooftop solar panels. Warehouses with enough empty roof space can install them to generate natural electricity. Those sites will continue saving money over time through reduced utility bills.
Instead of partnering with traditional electricity corporations to power their facilities, warehouse companies may work with solar panel farms. The facility won’t notice a difference between the forms of energy. Work will continue on schedule without any hiccups caused by construction.
Fulfillment centers have rafters full of empty space. In the winter, the hot air produced by an HVAC unit rises into those rafters and leaves floor workers feeling cold and uncomfortable. The HVAC unit will turn on more frequently, or constantly run to bring the facility to the predetermined interior temperature.
High-speed, low-volume (HSLV) fans are an excellent sustainable solution to that problem. Depending on the direction of the blades, the massive fans will redirect rising hot air away from the ceiling and toward floor workers. It can also push hot air away in the summer so cool air conditioning remains around facility employees.
Industrial ceiling fans save warehousing operations money during any season by reducing the HVAC unit’s need to remain running. Teams with enough room for the far-reaching blades of an HSLV fan will notice an immediate difference in comfort and electricity usage.
Warehouse packaging transforms into waste every day. Cardboard sliced into pieces and packing materials don’t always make it out the door. A recycling program gives workers a sense of empowerment over their contribution to the green warehousing efforts. Management teams can coordinate with pickup programs to create on-site recycling opportunities for everyone involved in operations.
Benefits of Green Warehousing
There are numerous benefits of green warehousing for any facility that brings positive change with eco-friendly strategies. These are the most noticeable changes that occur after going green.
More Consumer Brand Loyalty
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), buildings contribute 39% of annual CO2 emissions and 36% of global electricity consumption. Public studies like these make consumers more aware of how their purchases impact the planet, which changes their brand loyalty.
Recent research found that 70% of North American consumers value brands that operate sustainably over those they’ve shopped with in years prior. Brands that partner with green warehouses will gain the trust of their consumers and keep the business arrangement ongoing.
Increased Employee Satisfaction
A Reuters survey discovered 65% of respondents want eco-friendly employers aligned with their sustainable views. Warehousing team members will feel more satisfied with the company that employs them if that company strives to protect the environment. The resulting lower turnover rate and increased productivity will pay the brand back for any green warehousing updates that cost time and money.
Additional Money Saved
Efforts like installing solar panels and reducing electricity usage will save the warehousing operation’s team money each year. The extra budgetary room could result in future equipment investments or additional employees, making the warehouse more efficient and a better workplace environment.
Transition to Sustainable Warehousing
Fulfillment center experts can transition to green warehousing to improve their employees’ satisfaction and quarterly revenue. Streamlining work with machinery attachments and redirecting HVAC air with industrial fans are just a few considerations to weigh when seeking an eco-friendly solution to a warehouse’s environmental impact.
About the Author
Rose is the managing editor of Renovated and has been writing in the construction industry for over five years. She’s most passionate about sustainable building and incorporating similar resourceful methods into our world. For more from Rose, you can follow her on Twitter.