How many times have we opened a big packaged courier, only to find a lot of air and crushed paper inside? Besides of course, the small product that we actually ordered. It comes as no surprise that we’re all aware that such blatant wastage of packaging material is devastating for the environment. Having said that, fortunately, change is afoot and a range of eCommerce websites are taking cognizance of this responsibility that nearly completely lies with them.
Indian e-commerce is projected to hit the US$ 99 billion mark by 2024, growing at a 27% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) over 2019-24, with grocery and fashion/apparel likely to be the key drivers of incremental growth. It very simply translates into far more packaging material being used and the emissions produced by the last mile delivery vehicles. This means the carbon footprint Indian eCommerce will generate will also grow exponentially.
What is Green eCommerce?
Green eCommerce in very simple terms is eCommerce with a green conscience - online companies that are doing business in an environmentally conscious way and trying to limit the impact on the planet we call home.
Dwij is one such eCommerce enterprise that follows practices and uses sales methods, including packaging and shipping, to reduce their impact on the environment.
At Dwij, we originally planned to replace all plastic/packaging boxes with cardboard boxes for better customer experience. However, since cardboard boxes take more volume during shipments than envelopes, Dwij adopted paper envelopes with water-based paper tapes during the non-monsoon seasons and ‘recycled plastic envelopes’ during the monsoon season. The aim is to deliver a product that is in perfect condition. Boxes are sparingly used, or even a separate plastic cover for each product unless absolutely imperative, like toys. Additionally, jewellery is wrapped in upcycled cloth pouches while recycled paper is used for gift wrapping.
Dwij offers free shipping pan India on prepaid orders via surface shipment only and not air shipment, although air shipment delivers quicker but has a higher carbon footprint. Dwij is committed to using upcycled tree-free paper, and at the moment, cards by Bluecat Paper are being used to display product information.
In a bid to minimize returned orders, each customer who places a COD order is personally called to confirm their order, so that the incidence of return is brought to a bare minimum, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of online shopping.
Dwij also offers an in-store pick up facility for buyers in Mumbai.
Online businesses can now attain their Green Goals by following these 7 Tips- Environment Friendly 1. Begin by reducing your website’s carbon footprint
It might be very surprising to learn but did you know that the Internet, our gadgets and the systems supporting them produce as much pollution as the Airline industry? It is because a few grams of carbon dioxide are emitted each time we use a gadget and all websites are hosted on servers, which produce emissions that are harmful to the environment.
You could shift to a Green Server, which basically means find a web host that purchases renewable energy credits, such as wind or solar energy credits. These green credits offset the carbon footprint of your website, making it either carbon neutral or even carbon negative.
By using a green web host for your website, you will be taking the first step towards becoming a green eCommerce company.
GreenGeeks buys renewable energy credits (wind energy specifically) to replace the energy used by their servers. They buy back 3 times the amount of energy your website uses which makes it carbon negative. They also plant a tree for every customer that signs up for their web hosting service.
2. Use environment friendly eco-friendly packaging
Excess and non-recyclable packaging are a massive source contributing to unnecessary waste. Eco-friendly packaging made from recycled materials or those that are easily recyclable, compostable/biodegradable at home is a sustainable alternative that online business houses could use to reduce their impact on the environment.
If in certain cases, substituting packaging materials is not possible, then being punctilious about using smaller packaging boxes and less material in order to cut down on waste, is a solution.
3. Eliminate single-use plastics
Plastic packaging that is not reusable classifies as single-use plastic and is a huge contributor to waste, pollution and climate change. All business enterprises whether online or not must eliminate this monster from the supply chain of their business processes. While it is understood that some products require to be packaged individually for safety or sanitary reasons, they could consider swapping single-use-plastic wrapping with more sustainable and eco-friendly options.
4. Give your customers the option to offset damage caused because of shipping by contributing to carbon offset schemes
Since we have already established that last-mile deliveries have a significant environmental impact on account of greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and congestion, online businesses could offer to offset this carbon footprint by urging customers to contribute towards carbon offsetting programs that are actively involved in reducing carbon emissions and restoring the planet’s balance.
We at Dwij, are in a process of identifying the startups in this field and adding this feature to the website.
5. Optimising delivery logistics and using eco-friendly transportation
The sheer volume of eCommerce deliveries that happen on a daily basis in a densely populated and geographically vast country like India generates a massive carbon footprint that seems impossible to contain. However, optimisation of delivery and shifting to renewables-based fleets, such as electric delivery vehicles are essential to ensure that the contribution to urban pollution and greenhouse gasses per parcel mile is minimal.
6. Purchase carbon offsets for the business
You can, as a business, purchase green credits or carbon offsets to make your eCommerce activities carbon neutral and more sustainable in nature.
7. At check-out, give your customers the option to choose an alternative method of shipping
A study conducted by researchers at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and published in the Journal of the Transportation Research Board focused on the carbon emissions linked to each mode of delivery among the various shipping options available on the popular Chinese e-commerce platform, Taobao. According to their calculations, shipping packages by sea was the least polluting option. And when the 188 people who took part in the experiment were asked to choose between several shipping methods with varying prices and delivery times, out of those who chose the fastest shipping option, 56% ultimately opted for a slower delivery time once informed of the corresponding carbon emissions. Their results reflected that sharing information about the emissions of different e-commerce shipping options can help promote more sustainable choices and potentially facilitate greener logistics operations.
Even though there's a consensus amongst independent researchers that online shopping or eCommerce is a much greener option than in-store retail for one fundamental reason alone: with online shopping, a single truck or van can replace multiple car trips, by multiple households, to stores - it holds water only if it is done right. It's up to us to do it right - by choosing easy, delayed shipping as opposed to express shipping for more sustainable eCommerce.