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What Is Carbon Neutral Shipping

by EasyPost
salmon creek forest

Whitney loves the convenience of ordering online but wants to shrink her carbon footprint with carbon neutral shipping. She buys groceries online, shops for presents for friends and family from her phone, and orders everything she needs for her art business from the convenience of her home. She recently learned that all that shipping she's doing is contributing to global warming, and that's starting to bother her. She is determined to use carbon neutral shipping options whenever she can.

She's not alone. A 2021 poll found that 73% of consumers want to personally reduce their environmental impact, up from 64% in 2019. And according to a recent report, 91% of consumers want to see eco-friendly shipping options like carbon neutral shipping when they check out. But what is carbon neutral shipping, and how does it help the environment?

Our climate is changing - becoming more unhealthy - because of greenhouse gasses trapped in the atmosphere. These gasses trap energy and retain heat, leading to gradually rising temperatures worldwide (global warming). Our daily choices contribute to the growing problem.

Greenhouse gasses include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gasses, according to the EPA. The main culprit, carbon dioxide, comes primarily from the fossil fuels we use in transportation, electricity production, and industrial processes. That means Whitney is right—shipping does contribute to the greenhouse gasses responsible for global warming.

What is carbon neutral shipping?

Carbon neutral shipping is a way to help neutralize CO2 emissions by supporting projects designed to reduce emissions. This carbon offsetting could include planting trees, protecting forests, generating hydroelectric power, improving soil quality, and more. It does not reduce the carbon emissions produced from shipping, but it does help balance it by addressing CO2 elsewhere.

In contrast, zero carbon shipping means changing methods to reduce carbon emissions as much as possible. This might include using environmentally friendly packaging, using packing materials such as sealed-air packing peanuts, and switching to zero-emission fuels in transportation. Zero carbon shipping reduces CO2 emissions from the shipping itself.

Everyone in the supply chain needs to work together to minimize the environmental impact of shipping. Reducing emissions is a great first step, but it's difficult to get those emissions all the way down to zero. This is where carbon offsetting strategies come into play. These strategies neutralize the emissions associated with shipping. In essence, they enable carbon neutral shipping.

Why is carbon neutral shipping important?

woman holding tablet wearing hard hat

Carbon offsets give ecommerce organizations and consumers the power to achieve carbon neutrality in shipping by reducing the impact of emissions through improvements to the environment. Carbon neutral shipping is important for several reasons:

  • Preserves and protects the environment. The global supply chain is responsible for around 64% of total carbon emissions. Reducing shipping and fulfillment emissions will make a huge impact on the environment. As shipping needs increase, so will greenhouse gasses—unless key players in the industry invest in change. Carbon neutral shipping strategies help balance output with absorption so we can achieve net zero carbon emissions.
  • Gives consumers a way to make a difference. As mentioned above, consumers are concerned about the environment, and they are increasingly prepared to put their money behind green initiatives. A 2022 study found that 66% of consumers will pay more for environmentally friendly products, up 2% from the previous year. Providing carbon neutral shipping options gives consumers what they're looking for and builds trust in companies that align with their values.
  • Helps compensate for emissions that are difficult to eliminate. Reducing carbon emissions is essential, but reducing all the way down to zero is not possible in every scenario. Carbon credits are the best way to get to net zero after reducing carbon emissions to the lowest point. Net zero or carbon neutral can be achieved by reducing emissions AND removing the remaining emissions through nature-based solutions such as reforestation and kelp farming and human-engineered solutions such as direct air capture and bio-oil.
  • Saves money in the long run. Carbon neutral shipping options do increase the cost to ship a package—we’re talking pennies rather than dollars. However, these carbon credits will deliver an impact that pays off in the long run as ecommerce platforms attract and retain customers who want to reduce their carbon footprint. In addition, switching to vehicles that run on green energy could save money down the road as prices for fossil fuels increase. A recent study on sustainable practices in companies found that good ESG (environmental, social, and governance) standards lower the cost of capital, improve operational performance, and positively impact stock prices.

Scientists warn that if global temperatures continue to rise, the results could be devastating. Using carbon offsets to help neutralize the effects of emissions produced by the supply chain will help get those shipping emissions to net zero.

How to shrink the carbon footprint of your business

Levels of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere are at an all-time high. Captured gas in ice has revealed that CO2 was present in the atmosphere at 283 ppm (parts per million) in 1800. Since then, that number has risen steadily, with a sharp spike starting around 1950. Today, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has reached 416 ppm.

Earth's ocean and vegetation absorb CO2 emissions, but that natural filtration can't keep up, falling behind to the tune of 2.5 ppm left in the atmosphere every year. Scientists believe that reducing human-caused carbon emissions can halt global warming, and that means both individuals and businesses can make a difference by employing strategies like carbon neutral shipping that reduce their carbon footprint.

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by an entity or activity. Specifically, it's the impact a person or company makes on the environment due to carbon dioxide released through their activities. That output is determined by the amount of gas, electricity, products, and services they use.

In an effort to slow environmental degradation, a growing number of companies are joining the Race to Zero campaign. In doing so, they commit to reducing emissions by half by 2030 and reaching carbon zero by 2050. The first step in making those changes and reducing the impact of carbon output—reducing a carbon footprint—is to measure it. Free calculators can be found online.

Strategies to lower your business' carbon footprint

As mentioned above, step one in lowering your business's carbon footprint is to measure it. Doing so will show you where you stand, highlighting low-hanging fruit areas where small changes will have the greatest impact. It's also a way to monitor the progress you're making.

Reducing your carbon footprint includes reducing shipping emissions and neutralizing the ones you can't get rid of completely. The following short list of carbon neutral shipping strategies can get you started:

  1. Measure your carbon footprint. Measuring is important for a couple of reasons. First, you need to know where you are and what can improve. Second, you need to know how much to offset. You can find free carbon footprint measuring tools online.
  2. Switch to eco-friendly packaging. Packaging makes a big difference to the environment. Eco-friendly packaging could include recyclable materials such as corrugated cardboard, compostable materials that break down quickly, biodegradable packing peanuts, sealed-air packing material, and more. Making the switch or even offering environmentally friendly options to your customers will get you to net zero emissions more quickly and may even attract more customers.
  3. Use multiple fulfillment centers to distribute your inventory. Distributing your inventory among multiple locations allows you to ship to customers using shorter distances and fewer transportation resources, thus minimizing delivery emissions.
  4. Balance your emissions with certified carbon credits. Calculate the estimated carbon emissions from package deliveries and purchase carbon credits to help balance those emissions in the atmosphere. Make sure to use credits that have been certified by trusted industry standards or with validated methodologies and protocols.
  5. Make use of environmentally conscious technologies. Partnering up with other environmentally conscious businesses keeps the momentum going. It also makes it easier for your company to move toward net neutral goals.

Regardless of the strategies that work best for your company, the important thing is to make a plan to shrink your carbon footprint.

Carbon neutral shipping with EasyPost

carbon offset program illustration

EasyPost has recently launched a Carbon Offset API to make it simple for shipping companies to go green. The API calculates the carbon emissions from parcel delivery on each shipment using distance, weight, and mode of transportation-specific emission factors. Then, with a detailed understanding of the environmental impact of their shipping, customers can purchase carbon credits to help neutralize the emissions for that shipment, making carbon neutral delivery possible.

Remember Whitney? Consumers like her seek out companies that align with their desire to improve the environment and are ready to put their money behind it. Giving customers like Whitney access to this frontier technology—one of the only shipping APIs that allow customers to calculate and offset carbon emissions—will secure their loyalty and modernize your brand.

Implementing carbon neutral shipping will also help companies aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. EasyPost makes it simple with access to carbon credit projects designed to increase carbon storage and reduce greenhouse gasses. It's time to make a plan to reduce the size of your carbon footprint and—let's face it—save the planet.

If you have any questions about our Carbon Offset API, please speak with one of our shipping experts. To get started today at no cost, sign up here.

Carbon neutral shipping Q&A

What is carbon neutral shipping?

Carbon neutral shipping, also referred to as carbon offset shipping, means calculating the emissions from parcel delivery and investing in carbon credits that help balance out those emissions. This could include planting trees (a fully mature tree can absorb up to 40 pounds of carbon dioxide and put out oxygen), restoring native ecosystems that store carbon dioxide more efficiently, supporting the development of low-impact renewable energy plants, and more.

How much does carbon neutral shipping cost?

Purchasing carbon credits costs pennies per parcel. You can set up the EasyPost API free and offer the option to your customers. They can choose to pay for offsets or not, and many of them will!

Investing in strategies to lower your carbon emissions, like eco-friendly packaging and switching to green vehicles, does include some cost. However, you may find the benefits of balancing those costs by winning over new customers.

What are the main culprits when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions from shipping?

Greenhouse gas emissions come from burning fossil fuels like gas, coal, and oil. Transportation uses fossil fuels to the tune of 27% of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA. Electricity isn't far behind, coming in at 25% of the total across industries. So storing products in large warehouses is another culprit.

How do I give my customers carbon neutral shipping options?

Use our Carbon Offset API. It's really that simple. Our API will calculate the carbon emissions from each parcel delivery and provide the option to purchase offsets that neutralize the impact of the shipping. A one-time integration will get you there.