Sustainability has become a significant issue for most industries, and logistics is no exception. Yet companies direct their efforts at other points in the supply chain, such as distribution and manufacturing. Warehouse managers may not know how to make operations environmentally friendly.

Warehouses consume vast amounts of resources to create goods and keep the supply chain moving. However, that can change. Managers can implement solutions to reduce waste and carbon consumption.

Discover seven ways to make your warehouse more environmentally friendly.

1. Keep the Heat In

Metal buildings can benefit massively from insulation. Without it, the material conducts heat away in winter and transfers it in during summer. Proper insulation — plus upgrades to doors and windows — will stabilize the temperature in your warehouse, reducing the amount of energy needed for climate control.

Stabilized temperatures will keep working conditions consistent throughout the day. You can prevent slowdowns and save money on heating and cooling costs.

Better warehouse insulation can also help you manage humidity levels — ideal if you’re working with goods that need to stay in a dry environment.

2. Reduce Water Waste

Warehouses have a reputation for eating up resources, including water. Many managers don’t realize they can reduce waste and save. Install low-flow plumbing fixtures, including faucets and toilets. You should also look into aerators for flush valves. While these implementations require installment costs, you’ll easily rake in savings within a year.

Start collecting grey water — tap water used in washing machines, tubs, showers, bathroom sinks, etc. It’s not sanitary, but it’s non-toxic and disease-free. Instead of piping this water into the sewage system, warehouses can reuse it. Once treated, you can use this water to flush toilets, irrigate landscaping and much more.

Warehouse operations might stay inside. However, you can consider ways to save outside, too. Commercial rainwater harvesting systems are ideal for buildings with a large roof. Collecting and storing rainwater is an easy way to go green. You can store tanks above or below the ground.

Be sure to insulate all pipes and storage tanks. When water pipes aren’t insulated properly, people wait longer for hot water flow from faucets, resulting in significant waste. Immediate access to hot water will generate considerable savings.

3. Invest in Eco-Lighting

LED lights are brighter than traditional bulbs and use less energy. Switching to eco-friendly LEDs can reduce the power you need to keep your warehouse lit by as much as 80% over conventional options.

These lights are brighter than their counterparts, meaning you can light the same amount of space with fewer bulbs. They also tend to last longer than traditional ones. You’ll save by replacing lights less often.

You can also save energy by investing in skylights. These windows allow sunlight to stream directly into the warehouse, reducing the need for lighting and heating. As a bonus, workers will love the access to natural light.

4. Implement Lean Principles

Lean operating principles started in manufacturing, but they can apply to warehouses, too. It’s all about minimizing waste — time, talent and resources.

Better floor planning and policies that improve picking efficiency can reduce your warehouse’s error rate and the amount of energy needed to move goods. A paperless ordering system can reduce or eliminate the amount of paper your warehouse uses. When applied to your operation, lean principles ensure you make every watt of energy count.

5. Reuse and Recycle

Single-use packaging, like plastic pallet wrap, doesn’t need to go to the landfill. Some recycling companies specialize in industrial and warehouse recycling. They’re experts in the different packaging materials you can recycle once used. In some cases, warehouses can make money by collecting and recycling plastic waste.

You can also save resources — and money — by getting the most out of your materials and packaging. This notion is especially true for equipment like pallets, which have long lifespans and consist of easy-to-recycle materials.

Your warehouse can implement a packaging return program in which distributors return used packaging. After, you can reduce or reuse materials as needed.

6. Consider Green Packaging

A few different packaging companies offer reusable or biodegradable alternatives to single-use materials. These alternatives reduce the amount of plastic — one of the most damaging elements to the environment — you send to the landfill.

Warehouse managers should consider implementing popular green packaging trends, such as innovative packaging you can eat or clear materials that require less energy.

7. Establish a Bonded Warehouse

When companies import goods into the U.S., they must store them in some type of customs-bonded warehouse — also called a customs or bonded warehouse. If a company doesn’t have a bonded warehouse, they have no access to foreign goods. This issue may not seem like it relates to sustainability. However, access to international goods can make supply chains simpler and sustainable.

In some instances, an eco-friendly supply chain requires goods or materials sourced from foreign markets. For example, consider a paper mill near an international border. The closest source of wood pulp may be foreign. Without access to a bonded warehouse, that mill can only use domestic pulp. The result may be increased travel time and carbon consumption.

Access to foreign markets can also give logistics companies flexibility in sourcing materials. In most countries, bonded warehouses can hold imported goods indefinitely. Typically, no duty is paid on imported goods until they are released to a buyer or enter the market.

In the United Kingdom, if you can’t find a buyer, you can export imported goods without needing to pay a duty. This news is good for warehouse managers who don’t want to wastefully release goods.

Warehouse managers and logistics companies can use bonded warehouses to increase supply sources and reduce waste — even if you can’t find a buyer.

How to Create an Environmentally Friendly Warehouse

Warehouses consume vast amounts of resources to prepare and handle goods. However, sustainability is possible.

Warehouse managers can implement new policies — such as green packaging materials, lean principles, eco-friendly lighting and bonded warehousing — to lower their carbon footprint and save money on operating costs.

Megan Ray Nichols