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From Store to Door with Minimal Impact: How Companies Are Eco-Friendly Innovators

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Even without the pandemic turning the world on its head in 2020, fast courier services are quickly becoming popular for a generation that has become accustomed to instant gratification. In fact, research shows that around 19% of UK-based millennials expect delivery of online purchases to be made within 24 hours or less.

On top of this, Covid-19 has seen us rely on food delivery services more than ever, with a projected £11 million being spent on takeaways in 2020 alone. However, the increased demand can lead to devastating effects on the environment. Couriers need larger fleets to be able to keep on top of deliveries, which in turn contributes greater amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. On top of this, a huge amount of waste is produced as a by-product of customer purchases, whether in the form of cardboard boxes or plastic inserts.

Now, couriers and businesses alike are starting to rethink how they operate, choosing more eco-friendly approaches where possible. Here, we’ll go through some of the changes businesses are making to reduce their impact on the environment.

Low emission couriers

According to the Transport for London action plan, as reported by the Standard, freight is responsible for a third of NOx (nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide mixed). A 67% increase in greenhouse gas emissions from vans was also found, with road traffic coming in as the main source of air pollution in London. To minimize the impact fleets are having on the environment, more courier companies are looking to low or zero emission options, without having to compromise on the service.

Of course, this is a huge task which cannot be completed over night. Instead, long-term plans are being slowly rolled out, with companies trialing various options around the nation to test which works best for different services. For example, private courier CitySprint is adopting the use of cargo bikes to replace small vans, allowing for packages to be delivered which can’t necessarily fit on the standard push bikes, at speeds of up to 50% faster than a small van.

Similarly, in 2019, the Royal Mail introduced a small fleet of e-trikes to test out the effectiveness in various areas, including Sutton Coldfield, Cambridge, and London’s Stratford. The zero-emission vehicles are powered by battery (from an overnight charge) as well as solar panels on the roof and regenerative braking. And in 2020, 87 brand new electric vehicles were introduced to the Mount Pleasant mail centre in London, to battle against the growing pollution from vehicles in the capital.

Sustainable packaging

Typically, products we buy online arrive in several layers of protective packaging. Unfortunately, the amount of cardboard or plastic used is far too excessive and wasteful. Toys in particular have long been notorious for using far too much plastic, both in production and packaging. There is hope however that Generation Alpha, the current generation of children aged 6-16, can collectively put pressure on toymakers to rethink their packaging policies. There are some great ways to have more sustainable packaging for businesses.

A large scale Wunderman Thompson poll of the age group found that 66% of Generation Alpha want products from companies doing good in the world.

Now, the largest toymakers in the world, including Lego, Mattel, and Hasbro, are working hard to improve their sustainability, paving the way for smaller and newer brands. Lego, for example, responded to an influx of letters from concerned children over the single-use plastic found in Lego boxes. Now, the company is starting to use recyclable paper bags instead of plastic to package up the bricks, And back in 2018, the company started looking for bio alternatives to the plastic used in typical Lego pieces, starting with a collection of trees, bushes, and grass made from 98% plant-based materials.

Eco-friendly formulas and production

The beauty industry is another that is changing to meet modern consumer demands. The meaning of “natural” products has changed significantly, swinging from simple essential oils found in specialist shops to plant-derived ingredients in biodegradable packaging. As society becomes more focused on ethical issues, it makes sense that the beauty industry is also feeling the shift in consumer behaviour, and it’s predicted that the natural cosmetics industry will be worth $48.04 billion by 2025.

A number of leading brands are promoting their ethical products, including Neal’s Yard Remedies, which has campaigned for years against the use of microbeads in cosmetics. Products are sold in glass bottles made in Yorkshire, and the brand encourages recycling by offering £2 off a purchase for every empty bottle that’s brought back to store.

It’s not just the packaging that is a cause for concern though. The formulas of products are also being taken into account. Dr Barbara Olioso, managing director of The Green Chemist Consultancy, explained to Cosmetics Design that consumers are worried about the products during and after use, such as whether or not SPF would damage natural coral while swimming in the sea. She insists that brand leaders need to prioritize green chemistry, while opting for a ‘less is best’ approach, when natural origin ingredients of a higher quality are used instead of cheaper, and more damaging, alternatives.