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  June 17th, 2023 | Written by

Meeting Sustainability Goals with Green Warehousing

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Warehouses are essential for many businesses. They also keep the e-commerce industry running. At the same time, warehousing has a significant ecological footprint and environmental impact. To be sustainable, warehouses need to adopt green practices. This is where green warehousing offers an opportunity for sustainability-minded businesses. 

What is green warehousing?

Warehouses protect products in storage. Done properly, warehousing reduces the risk of contamination, spoilage and waste. Another important aspect of warehousing is having products in the right place to meet demands or requirements.

Warehousing requires a lot of resources and generates waste that is not always recyclable. Storage space, packaging materials and much more are needed to fulfill orders. Lighting, climate control and other activities related to daily operations consume energy and costs. Warehouse operations also create non-recyclable waste.

Green warehousing involves reducing energy consumption with sustainable practices and materials. This might include, for example, creating a distribution network that reduces transportation. It also focuses on managing inventories and moving goods and people across warehouse floors in an efficient way. 

Thinking about green logistics beyond warehousing

An eco-friendly warehouse is the main component of any green warehousing strategy. Green warehousing is just one element of a sustainable approach to shipping and distribution. Businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint should think about a broader green logistics approach.

Sustainable warehousing is just one part of the supply chain. Businesses should consider how raw materials are sourced and how products are manufactured. Sustainability can be achieved, for example, by processing materials and producing products in an energy-efficient way. Eliminating waste during these steps in the supply chain is also key.

Green logistics also involves improved product distribution. This might involve eco-friendly packing materials and processes. For example, space can be optimized in containers and on pallets when transporting products. This reduces fuel consumption during shipping. 

The benefits of green warehousing

Cost savings are one of the main benefits of green or sustainable warehousing. With lower consumption, energy bills will be reduced. These savings can be used to invest in more environmentally-friendly upgrades or other aspects of your businesses. That said, the benefits do not stop at cost savings.

Consumer loyalty

More and more consumers are making conscious decisions about their purchases based on environmental and social impacts. A company’s actions on sustainability are increasingly tied to consumer loyalty and preferences.

Products making environmental, social and governance (ESG) claims, for example, averaged 28% cumulative growth over the past five years compared to 20% for products that made none. In North America, 70% of consumers value brands that operate sustainably.

Employee satisfaction

Many workers are concerned about environmental ethics and impacts. A UK study found that 65% of workers are more likely to work for a company with a strong environmental policy.

A company’s sustainability record can impact decisions about where people want to work and can impact a company’s turnover rate. Adopting sustainable practices like green warehousing can be important in attracting and retaining talent.

How to adopt green warehousing?

Green warehousing requires commitment at all levels. Some changes like recycling packaging materials are relatively low-cost. Other changes like sustainable construction or improved lighting will require investments. In the longer term, these changes will result in lower energy costs and other benefits.

Designing a sustainable space

The design of a warehouse is essential for sustainability by reducing the building’s carbon footprint. This might include powering the space with renewable energy like solar panels and using sustainable building materials. Rainwater infiltration systems also help reduce water consumption.

Introducing green spaces reduces energy consumption and indoor temperature changes. Placing plants on the roof of an uninsulated building reduces energy consumption from heating by up to 5% during the winter and from cooling by up to 33% in the summer months.

Green spaces like green roofs, walls and interior decoration also provide additional benefits. Outdoors, they create ecological diversity for wildlife. For workers, green spaces create more welcoming areas for breaks. 

Updating your warehouse fleet

Choosing the right equipment to transport goods is another important step in green warehousing. Electric equipment is a green alternative to using equipment powered by propane or natural gas. This reduces emissions by avoiding the use of fossil fuels.

Multi-purpose forklifts also reduce carbon footprints since they help reduce the number of vehicles needed in a warehouse. Attachments can be used for different tasks on the floor while reducing the space required to store vehicle fleets. Forklift manufacturer Combilift, for example, found its customers created up to 50% more storage space with a multi-purpose forklift.

Updating warehouse lighting and ventilation

Proper lighting is a must to ensure warehouses are safe. Switching to eco-friendly options like light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs and automated lighting helps with energy consumption. Thanks to their high efficiency and directional nature, LED lights are increasingly common in industrial and commercial settings. They also last longer and use at least 75% less energy.

Improving ventilation in a warehouse space also helps improve efficiency. During the winter, heating travels upwards and leaves the warehouse floor cool. This can be uncomfortable for workers and require the heating to be constantly on to maintain a more comfortable interior temperature.

Industrial high-speed, low-volume fans help address this problem by redirecting rising hot air. In the summer, they also help circulate cool air. These fans will help increase comfort and reduce energy use.

Using sustainable materials and recycling

Warehousing requires a lot of packaging. It is not surprising that this creates significant amounts of waste each day. Introducing a recycling program ensures that packaging materials are disposed of correctly.

Reusing pallets and storage materials also helps reduce waste while also cutting costs. Keeping materials out of landfills also means companies reduce disposal costs.

Space optimization

Storage optimization and inventory control help increase efficiency on the warehouse floor. For example, storing products in a way that minimizes space ensures you make the most of your warehouse.

When it comes to inventory, properly labeling, packaging and storing products minimizes damage. This decreases the risk of spoilage and waste. Stacking products on pallets also helps forklifts move them effectively.

Transitioning to green practices in your warehouse

For businesses looking to save and reduce the environmental impacts of their operations, green warehousing is an important element of any sustainability approach. From changing the machinery you use to upgrading lighting and ventilation, green warehousing helps businesses reduce energy consumption and waste. At the same time, these practices can improve a company’s bottom line by attracting consumers and talent while reducing costs.