Here’s one thing that can’t be ignored about Americans: We love our stuff. More than any other country in the world, Americans invest a ton of time and energy in obtaining, storing, and moving personal property.
Not that there’s anything wrong with stuff— it’s a huge part of our consumer economy! We love to buy online, we live in relatively large homes, and we drive vehicles that are often capable of hauling large volumes of our stuff. We also move an average of 14 times over our lifetime, and we’ve built 2.2 billion square feet of self-storage space to hold all the stuff we can’t keep at home.
So if you’re interested in sustainability, here’s an interesting fact: Moving our stuff and ourselves actually tends to have a greater impact on climate change than making new stuff. Transport – which could include personal, public and air travel, freight, shipping, etc. – accounts for about 24% of all CO2 emissions in the world. Manufacturing accounts for only 19%.
We hear a lot about how we can reduce our impact by using alternative transportation for our commutes, but what about for our stuff? Here are just a few ways you can reduce your impact on the environment when moving and shipping goods.
Move it all at once.
If you’re moving to a new home or need to ship several packages, consider how you can combine your things into as few parcels or trips as possible. Even if you need to ship a bigger box, or use a larger vehicle to haul your own stuff, carbon emissions will be significantly lower if you can move it all in one trip.
When shipping packages via UPS, USPS, etc., if you’re using a single container for multiple items, you’re also only using one set of packaging, labeling and wrapping. For online purchases, you can request that your items be delivered in as few shipments as possible.
Choose independent haulers that combine trips.
If you need to move a package, USPS tends to be the most efficient because mail carriers often make trips by foot, and the mail arrives at your home six days a week anyway.
Otherwise, if you need to hire someone for anything larger than a package – which might include a home moving company, or specialized haulers for boats, motorcycles or auto shipping - try to book with a transporter that is hauling multiple shipments. In the freight industry, combining multiple palletized freight loads in a single journey is called “Less Than Truckload” (LTL) Freight, and it’s been a fuel and cost-saving strategy in the logistics industry for decades. If you can put your stuff on a pallet, not only will your quote be cheaper, but you’ll be limiting your emissions.
You can locate reputable LTL and other independent haulers on uShip.com, where they often book multiple loads along a route to fill out their cargo.
Opt for ground shipping, and don’t overnight it.
If you have to send something with a parcel carrier, try not to send it overnight. There’s a reason overnighting shipments is expensive— it uses a ton of jet fuel. As a form of transport, planes also spew a ton more CO2 into the atmosphere than ground transport.
Purchase affordable carbon offsets.
If you’re truly a sustainable overachiever, there are plenty of ways to purchase carbon offsets for any of life’s emissions-creating activities, including transport. Carbon offset providers sponsor green projects across the globe that reduce emissions in the short- or long-term. Their projects might include a combination of renewable energy, energy efficiency like renewable energy projects, energy efficiency programs, forestry, or the active destruction of pollutants— any efforts that are proven to reduce and prevent CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.
As one example, uShip has partnered with offset provider Terrapass to offer individual offsets to all customers and transporters on the site for a small fee. We also use Terrapass to offset all of our company operations (servers consume a lot of energy) and employee commutes.
Crap: Don’t buy it, don’t ship it, don’t move it.
We’ve all seen Hoarders on TV. If you have to think twice about whether you really need to have something, don’t buy it to begin with. And if you don’t use something that you already have, either recycle it, sell it locally, or dispose of it safely rather than hauling it with you for the rest of your life. Your grandkids will not care about your massive collection of novelty dinner plates. If you move with any frequency, transporting less stuff translates to a smaller carbon footprint.
Collin Bass is a writer and social media specialist at uShip, the world’s largest and most trusted transportation marketplace for household goods, freight, vehicles and other hard-to-ship items.
Image courtesy of bubblefast.com