5 Sustainable Shipping Options for a Greener Import

If you’re looking to minimise your business’s impact on the planet, sustainable shipping may be the way to go. Domestic and international shipping are key contributors to global emissions and should certainly form part of your green goals.

However, it is not always easy to reduce emissions when you need to move cargo urgently from one origin to another. This article will give you 5 helpful sustainable shipping options to help you make your supply chain greener.

Gas emissions from shipping cargo

Sustainable shipping: why it’s important

Traditional shipping, without a doubt, causes a huge amount of pollution to our natural environment. Shipping causes between 18%-30% of the world’s nitrogen oxide, and around 9% of the world’s sulphur oxide pollution.

One large container ship alone can emit around 5,000 tonnes of sulphur oxide pollution in a single year. Considering that there are around 90,000 cargo vessels operating on the world’s waters, you can imagine just how much pollution the industry creates.

shipping emissions

Sustainable shipping is therefore important for a range of reasons:

  • It can reduce the negative environmental impact of your company.
  • It can improve your brand image, as consumers are becoming more eco-aware in their purchases.
  • Save costs, as using recycled material can cost less compared with the material you might be currently using.

Keep reading to learn what you can do to seize upon some of these advantages.

5 easy sustainable shipping options to ‘greenify’ your supply chain

You don’t have to overhaul your entire business model to embrace sustainable shipping practices.

Below, we’ll outline what you can do to improve your brand and save costs – while reducing your environmental footprint all at the same time.

1. Start with packaging

Packaging is a necessity when it comes to shipping your goods. But, unfortunately, the packaging you select contributes a great deal to the world’s waste. Thankfully, there are sustainable alternatives you can choose from.

First, look for reused or biodegradable packing. Sustainable materials like compostable mailer bags or packaging made from eco-friendly materials can go a long way to greenifying your supply chain.

Get rid of plastic and use eco-friendly and biodegradable paper to package your products instead. You can also use hemp, corn starch, mushroom or even seaweed packaging. There are also some great organic fabrics made from recycled cotton that you can use.

You can also look for packaging that can be repurposed. This involves getting a little creative. It not only means you can use packaging you’ve used before. It also involves using other items that can be fashioned into packaging when you wouldn’t ordinarily think of those items in that way.

You can use items like corrugated mailer boxes (100% recyclable), hessian sacks, mesh bags, egg cartons, glass bottles and paper bags. We’ve even seen some people use egg cartons to package golf balls.

Also look for packaging that maximises space to ship as much as possible, with the minimal amount possible of wasteful materials.

sustainable packaging materials

2. Ship items in bulk to reduce trips

The next thing you can do is ship your products in bulk, rather than individually. This involves consolidating your cargo into one container, thereby planning your inventory so you can reduce the number of trips you need for your cargo.

By reducing everything into a single shipment and even in a single container, you can also cut down your costs and lower the rate of harmful greenhouse gas emissions polluting the natural environment.

If you are importing goods from multiple suppliers, that isn’t a problem. You can still consolidate your cargo into full container load (FCL) shipments. Check out our article on buyer’s consolidation to find out more.

bulk shipping goods

3. Offset your carbon emissions with carbon neutral shipping

The practice of ‘carbon offsetting’ is a very useful way to reduce the effects of your shipping activities that emit carbon. The demand for carbon offsetting services escalated significantly in 2021.

If you purchase carbon offsets, you’ll be investing in clean, renewable energy and sustainable technology – thereby ‘offsetting’ the harm you’re creating through your regular operations.

You can also offer your customers and clients to offset their purchase at checkout as well. For example, you could promise to plant a tree for every customer who spends over $50, as a way to offset your emissions.

While this practice is not the best way to engage in sustainable shipping (because – at the end of the day – you’re still polluting), it is still a meaningful practice that should be adopted.

4. Book with shipping lines that can offer alternative carbon efficient options

When researching the different freight and cargo providers available on the market, consider booking only with shipping companies that offer carbon neutral or efficient options.

Ocean Network Express (ONE), for example, recently completed a trial using sustainable biofuel on the M/V MOL Experience. According to the shipping line, the trial’s success “proves the viability of sustainable biofuel” while also helping them meet their carbon reduction targets by 2030 and 2050.

ONE also announced the creation of a new ‘Green Strategy Department’ within their company. The purpose of the Department is to lead the shipping line’s sustainability goals. The company stated the Department will ensure that ONE is “at the forefront of green thinking” in the industry. They also announced they would assist in setting up a fund for maritime decarbonisation in Singapore worth around SGD$120 million.

Ocean Network Express sustainable biofuel

5. Choose sea freight over airfreight

Sea freight will generally offer a better carbon footprint than air freight. It should be considered as a much more sustainable method of moving cargo.

Aircraft pollutes around 20 to 30 times more than ships. They emit around 500 grams of carbon dioxide per metric tonne of freight, per kilometre. By comparison, ships only transport 10-40 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre.

Sea freight sustainable shipping

The International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Low Sulphur Regulation that entered force on January 1 2020, required all shipping companies to reduce their sulphur emissions by 85%. Sea freight shipping therefore still remains one of the most sustainable methods to transport cargo across the world.

We acknowledge this might be difficult if you need to ship goods on an urgent basis. Air freight will generally be a better option if this is what you are seeking.

Read about the advantages and disadvantages between air freight and sea freight here.

A freight forwarder can help you achieve your sustainability goals

Freight forwarders are experts when it comes to shipping and streamlining your supply chain. You should ask your forwarder what greener shipping options are available when arranging your shipment.

Get in touch with us by leaving a comment below, filling out our contact form or calling our professional team of freight forwarders on 1300 227 461.

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What Others Are Saying About International Cargo Express

Managed goods end to end

Due to critical stock levels we needed a fast solution to urgently meet growing client demand. Presented with this challenge, ICE quickly identified appropriate freighter services and proactively managed the movement of goods end to end.

Eddie Liaw – Supply Chain Director

ICE offered flexibility

ICE offered flexibility, high levels of communication and attention to detail during our pick, pack and delivery project. With their professional support we were able to meet the demands of our supply chain knowing our freight was in safe hands.

Tony Kealy – National Distribution Manager

Without exception and on time

Since having International Cargo Express handle my ocean freight , I have had my bookings and equipment available without exception and on time. Communication between ICE and my supplier is very good and I receive information via my shipper before my supplier.

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