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Warehousing has long been a critical element of the supply chain, ensuring the smooth flow of goods from manufacturers to consumers. Traditional warehousing strategies have primarily focused on efficiency and cost-effectiveness. However, the increasing awareness of climate change and the urgent need for sustainable practices have led to a significant paradigm shift within the industry, which has given rise to the concept of “green warehousing”.
Green warehousing explained
Green warehousing is a sustainable approach to warehousing operations, where the emphasis is on minimising the environmental footprint of the warehouse. This approach considers factors beyond traditional logistics parameters such as shipping schedules and storage space. The focus now extends to the reduction of energy consumption, waste production, and carbon emissions across warehouse operations.
By implementing specific green strategies, warehouses can transform from being significant contributors to environmental pollution to sustainable, eco-friendly establishments.
The importance of green warehousing
The need for green warehousing is becoming increasingly imperative in our global pursuit of sustainability. Warehouses are not passive structures but active contributors to environmental pollution due to their energy-intensive operations. From the machinery used to the volume of waste generated, every aspect of warehousing operations can have a considerable impact on the environment.
Research suggests that large warehouses, particularly in densely populated regions, contribute significantly to emissions. This finding underscores the urgency to transition to greener alternatives. In addition to environmental concerns, sustainable warehousing also offers economic benefits. They can be more cost-effective in the long term, thanks to reduced energy usage and waste production.
Top tips for achieving a greener warehouse
Whether your business has just embarked on its sustainability journey or is well into its stride, you’re likely looking for practical ways to reduce your environmental footprint across your existing logistics facilities, distribution centres and warehouses. Here are some things to consider:
1. Utilise energy-efficient equipment
Invest in energy-efficient machinery and equipment. Not only do these options significantly reduce energy consumption, but they can also cut down on costs in the long run. Consider items like high-efficiency LED lighting and heating/cooling systems, which can make a big difference in energy usage.
2. Incorporate renewable energy sources
Consider installing solar panels, or, for larger companies, wind turbines. Excess energy generated can also be stored for later use or returned to the grid, making your warehouse energy-positive.
3. Maximise natural light
Design or make alterations to your warehouse to allow as much natural light in as possible. This can significantly reduce the need for artificial lighting during the day, saving energy and reducing electricity bills. Whilst this doesn’t relate to the environment, it will also have a positive effect on the mood and mental health of your staff – which is no bad thing.
4. Implement efficient waste management
A major aspect of green warehousing is managing waste effectively. This involves recycling wherever possible and reducing packaging waste. Composting organic waste is another potential avenue to consider. Partner with businesses that can recycle on your behalf too. For example, goplasticpallets.com operates an industry-leading plastic recycling service, as part of its commitment to sustainability.
5. Use sustainable building materials
The materials used in the construction or remodelling of your warehouse play a vital role. Choosing sustainable building materials can significantly reduce your warehouse’s carbon footprint while also providing a range of additional benefits.
A noteworthy example of this strategy in action is NREP’s warehouse in Sweden, which utilised cross-laminated timber (CLT) in place of steel for its walls, roofs, and façade. CLT is a durable, cost-effective, and remarkably eco-friendly building material. It’s manufactured by bonding together layers of wood at right angles, creating a product that is exceptionally strong, yet much lighter than steel.
6. Optimise warehouse layout
By optimising your warehouse layout, you can improve workflow and reduce the energy expended in moving goods around your facility. Spend time creating a floor plan, a master organisational structure and be prepared to plan vertically! We have written a blog on how to optimise warehouse space, take a look.
7. Employ energy management systems
In the mission to create greener warehouses, employing Energy Management Systems (EMS) will provide greater transparency over operations. An EMS is a framework that monitors, measures, and controls the energy consumption within your warehouse. Its purpose goes beyond just tracking energy use; it’s about using that data to understand where and how energy is being consumed and identifying opportunities to reduce unnecessary usage.
Implementing an EMS can bring significant energy and cost reductions. By pinpointing energy-intensive processes and periods of peak energy demand, you can develop strategies to reduce energy use, such as rescheduling certain operations to off-peak times or replacing energy-inefficient equipment
8. Engage and train staff
It’s essential that all staff understand the importance of sustainability and are trained in eco-friendly practices. This can include everything from turning off lights when they’re not needed to following proper recycling procedures.
9. Implement a green procurement policy
Creating a green warehouse isn’t just about the infrastructure and operations within your own premises, but it also extends to the wider supply chain and your business relationships.
A crucial step towards achieving this is the implementation of a green procurement policy.
A green procurement policy outlines your company’s commitment to sourcing goods and services that are both economically and environmentally sustainable. It’s a strategic approach to procurement where you choose to work with suppliers that are committed to environmentally friendly practices in their operations, product line, and even in their own supply chains.
One example of this in a logistics environment is by choosing sustainable plastic pallets, pallet boxes and other returnable transit packaging (RTP), which, over their prolonged life, are much better for the environment than their wooden counterparts.
At goplasticpallets.com, sustainability runs deep in our DNA – it guides everything we do, from the choice of materials to their practical use, all the way to their recycling at the end of their useful life. Impressively, 93% of our plastic pallets are manufactured from entirely recycled materials. What’s more, when our pallets reach the end of their working lives, we facilitate their return or collection. These pallets are processed by machines that “shred” them into small pieces. The small “chips” of plastic are then washed, dried and shaped, so they can be consistently used in the injection moulded process to become a new recycled material pallet or container.
Logistics businesses can also consider using Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to better understand their environmental footprint: In our dedicated blog, we say: “Over recent years, LCA has become an essential tool for understanding the environmental impact of a product, materials, or a service throughout its lifespan. Often referred to as ‘cradle-to-grave’ analysis, LCA involves a comprehensive evaluation of a product’s life cycle – starting from the extraction of raw materials to the end-of-life disposal or recycling.”
By employing these practical tips, businesses can significantly enhance the sustainability of their warehousing operations. It’s important to remember that while some of these strategies require an upfront investment, they can result in substantial cost savings and improved operational efficiency in the long run. Furthermore, they contribute to a better future for our planet, making them an investment worth making.
The transition towards green warehouses or sustainable logistics comes with a multitude of benefits for businesses, both in the short and long term. These benefits span economic, environmental, and social dimensions, reinforcing the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) approach to sustainable business practices.
Here are some key benefits of having a green warehouse.
1. Cost savings
Green warehouses often lead to significant cost savings over time. This is primarily achieved through increased energy efficiency and reduced waste. For example, investing in energy-efficient equipment and renewable energy sources, like solar panels, can significantly reduce a warehouse’s energy consumption, leading to lower utility bills. Similarly, implementing waste reduction strategies can minimise disposal costs.
2. Regulatory compliance
Governments around the world are introducing stricter environmental regulations. By implementing green practices, businesses can ensure they remain compliant with these regulations, avoiding potential fines and penalties. Moreover, demonstrating proactive environmental responsibility can help businesses stay ahead of future regulatory changes.
3. Enhanced brand image
Today’s consumers are increasingly environmentally conscious and prefer to support businesses that share these values. A green warehouse can significantly enhance a company’s brand image, showcasing their commitment to sustainability. This can lead to increased customer loyalty and a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
4. Employee satisfaction and retention
Studies have shown that employees prefer to work for companies that are committed to sustainability. A green warehouse can increase employee satisfaction and retention rates, reducing costs associated with high employee turnover and recruitment.
5. Access to green financing and incentives
Many governments and financial institutions offer incentives for businesses that implement sustainable practices. This could include tax breaks, grants, or access to green financing options.
6. Long-term business viability
With the increasing emphasis on sustainability, businesses that fail to adopt green practices risk being left behind. By contrast, those that do invest in green warehousing are better positioned for long-term success. They demonstrate adaptability and preparedness for a future where sustainability is likely to be an even more significant focus.
By taking the initiative to create green warehouses, businesses demonstrate a forward-thinking approach that prepares them for the future, satisfies stakeholders, and contributes to the overall wellbeing of our planet. It’s a win-win situation for companies willing to invest in this kind of sustainability.
Examples of green warehousing
The concept of green warehousing is already being adopted and put into action by many companies across the globe. Two examples of this trend are initiatives undertaken by NREP and PGS Global Logistics Ltd.
In November 2022, it was reported that Nordic developer NREP plans to construct the world’s first net-zero warehouse in Bålsta, Sweden. This 20,000-square-metre facility promises to be entirely CO2 neutral throughout its lifecycle, including its construction, operations, and eventual dismantling.
Key features will include the use of cross-laminated timber instead of steel for its walls, roofs, and facade, and an innovative type of organic insulation that binds more CO2 than it emits during production. The building will run entirely on renewable energy sources, utilising solar power, heat pump technology, and battery storage, thereby producing excess energy that can be returned to the grid. The facility will also employ green cement in its foundations, which reduces CO2 emissions by 30% compared to typical warehouse foundations.
On a similar note, DHL Supply Chain announced in December 2022 they were to build 4.3 million square foot of carbon neutral warehousing in six European markets as part of its EUR 7 billion global carbon reduction programme.
The journey towards green warehousing is no longer a future ambition but an active, achievable goal. Embracing sustainable practices within warehousing operations not only benefits the bottom line and strengthens corporate reputation, but also brings tangible rewards like reduced energy costs, increased brand loyalty, and improved employee satisfaction.
Initial investment and changes to operations might be required, but these are vastly outweighed by the long-term environmental, business, and community benefits. Through acknowledging and implementing sustainable practices, we all can join the fight against climate change, marking a crucial step towards a sustainable future for the logistics industry.
goplasticpallets.com is on a mission to create responsible supply chains. We believe that by working together, we can build a better future for everyone. Sustainability is deeply ingrained across every aspect of our business. Interested to learn more? Contact our team on 01323 744057, or email us at email@example.com