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Zoro: Five eco-friendly, cost-saving warehouse strategies

Kelly Friel from Zoro outlines some sustainable swaps that all warehouse managers should consider making.

At a time when climate change is becoming an ever-pressing issue, we all need to be looking for ways in which we can reduce the impact we're having on the environment. But, making some of your warehouse's process eco-friendlier won't just help save the planet — it can save you money, too. Kelly Friel from Zoro outlines some swaps that all warehouse managers should consider making.

While the logistics industry hasn't faced the same scrutiny as the manufacturing and transportation sectors when it comes to environmental issues, there's no denying that it makes a significant contribution to the globe's carbon emissions. And, at a time when climate change is the greatest threat we're all facing, it's vital that all businesses review their processes to see whether there are any eco-friendlier choices they could be making.

There are a range of ways in which warehouse managers can address their work in a more environmentally conscious way. For example, making tweaks to everything from your lighting to your waste disposal system could have a hugely positive effect on your company's carbon footprint. And, as a bonus, a lot of eco-friendly swaps can even save you money. So, I'm going to outline five changes all warehouses should be making to benefit the planet and their bottom lines.

Make the switch to LED bulbs

The European Union banned retailers from selling traditional halogen bulbs last September. This is because more energy efficient alternatives like LED and compact fluorescent bulbs offer the same quality of lighting but use around a fifth of the power.

If you're still waiting for your halogen bulbs to expire or have a stockpile that you were planning to use in your warehouse, I would recommend making the switch to LEDs as soon as possible instead. Because they require less electricity to run, this is a great way to reduce your carbon emissions. Plus, although LED bulbs tend to be slightly more expensive to buy, YouGen claims that the energy costs of lighting your home with halogen bulbs is 20 times more than with LEDs. Plus, LED bulbs have much longer lifespans. As a result, they'll soon pay for themselves!

Reduce the need for heating with better insulation

To keep your staff comfortable — and possibly preserve your wares, depending on what you stock — your warehouse is likely to require heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summertime. But you can reduce how much power this requires and help the effects to last much longer by ensuring your workplace is properly insulated. 

You might also benefit from providing your staff with seasonal uniforms: for example, give them winter hats and coats in the colder months, as well as short-sleeved tops that they can wear throughout the summer. This way, you won't ever have to turn your warehouse's heating or air conditioning up too high, as your workers will have some extra steps they can take to ensure they're comfortable and ready to work. Plus, while insulating your warehouse and giving your employees extra pieces of uniform will cost you money, it will also help to reduce your energy bills, which should help you to save in the long run. 

Review your packaging

There are a number of ways in which you can review your packaging and make it greener. Firstly, look at whether you're currently throwing a lot of packaging away. As a general rule, the less waste your warehouse is creating the better, and businesses in the logistics sector do tend to run into a lot of problems in this area. So, if you find that your company has a lot of packaging waste, look at whether you can make your processes more efficient to reduce this.

It's also a good idea to look at what kinds of materials can be found in your packaging. A war is currently being waged against single use plastics, and one of the ways in which they're most commonly used is in the packaging of good and deliveries. So, if there's currently a lot of plastic packaging in your warehouse, it's a good idea to look for an alternative if possible. Green Business Bureau recommends using the likes of biodegradable packaging peanuts, corrugated bubble wrap, recycled cardboard and paper or even packaging made from more sustainable materials that originate from mushrooms and seaweed. 

I would also recommend looking at how much packaging you typically use for each item. Not only will using less means reduce how much is thrown away, but it can also make your shipments lighter, so less energy is required to transport them. This can all go a long way to reducing your carbon footprint, and will also save you money, as you'll be spending less on packing materials and fuel.

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Make sure your recycling facilities are up to scratch

If your warehouse doesn't recycle, or you have a system in place but it isn't particularly effective, now is a great time to change this. Start by looking at areas where you could reduce how much waste you're producing, and then determine how you can recycle as much of what's left as possible. And, if some of your materials can't simply be sent to the local recycling plant, this might involve getting creative: for example, is there another local business that could take some of the waste of your hands and put it to good use?

It's also important that you ensure as much waste is recycled day-to-day, and the only way in which you can do this is by making it as convenient as possible for your workers. Put clearly labelled bins in convenient locations so your employees always know where their rubbish needs to go and can get to the relevant bin quickly and easily. It might also be worth choosing bins with wheels, so they're easy to move around when it's appropriate.

You will also need to educate your staff about any new waste disposal system that you put in place. Make sure to highlight the importance of sticking to any guidelines you've set out, and let staff know that you're open to any suggestions of improvement that they have. You'll want to hear if anything doesn't work as it should, after all. 

Start to phase in more energy efficient equipment

If some if your equipment is quite old, it's likely new and more efficient alternatives have come on the market since you bought it. So, whenever a tool comes to the end of its life, don't just buy a direct replacement — instead, look to see if there are any eco-friendlier versions that you could invest in. 

It's also a good idea to buy the highest-quality equipment that can afford at the time. Not only will this help to ensure that your chosen tools run as smoothly as possible, but they should also have a much longer lifespan — especially if they're used and maintained correctly. Plus, the best tools will be equipped with the latest and most efficient technology, which will save you energy, time, and money.

Taking some steps to make your warehouse greener won't just help the environment — it can be good for your bottom line, too. So, by taking these steps, you can be confident that you're doing your bit for the planet, while also having your business' best interests at heart. 

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