Delivery ? Make it green !

Express delivery, grouped delivery and collection are just some of the convenient options when buy online. Before you confirm your purchases, it is best to find out which shipping company the seller uses so that you can opt for an ecological delivery method and limit your impact on the environment.

Express but not excellent !

Express delivery usually means within 24 hours or same-day delivery. It surely is a great feeling when you can get your online order in no time at all and by selecting the fastest delivery method offered by the seller, especially when it is free.

But behind express delivery there is actually a considerable extra amount of pollution. Fast delivery means that the courier will send out containers or vehicles that are not 100% full, which will increase the number of delivery journeys. In 2020 the World Economic Forum estimated CO2 emissions linked to shipping could increase by 30% (or 6 million tonnes) by 2030. This should be enough to make us think twice about our shopping behaviour.

In some sectors, express delivery is not always synonymous with pollution – this is where the delivery is done by greener methods and/or is done locally, over a short distance.

For example, in Belgium, a large retailer offers local groceries delivery within 90 minutes, by bike courier.

Keep in mind that ordering last minute is also risky. If the order does not reach you in time, you may not be able to cancel it immediately. In Europe, you must first give notice to the seller to deliver within a new time limit before you can cancel your order, unless the seller guarantees an automatic refund or you have explicitly told them that the delivery time limit is essential.

Another way to reduce delivery journeys and energy consumption is grouping orders with other customers, where possible. This will reduce transport, fuel and packaging, too.

Think collection first !

Opting for delivery at a collection point may reduce transport length, and therefore CO2 emissions. Often the consumer is not present at the time of delivery so the parcel is returned to the courier depot and the delivery must be attempted again, which means that the number of journeys has doubled.

If the parcel is kept at a collection point, there is no need for a second delivery attempt as the consumer can pick up the order at their convenience, and in places such as regular shops that they would visit anyway. Collection is available with most online shops in France and elsewhere and it is usually free of charge, too. Alternatively, you can get your items delivery in a place where you will be any given day, such as your office or school, or anywhere in between home and these. You might even avoid collecting your parcel with a car if it is not too heavy, which saves quite a few CO2 emissions in the process.

Last-Mile Logistics

The ‘last mile’ is the final stage of delivery to your home, which represents a not insignificant percentage of a product’s journey to the end-consumer. In France, for example, according to the French Agency for Ecological Transition (ADEME), it accounts for 30% of the total cost of transporting a good or service.

The logistics of short-distance delivery is more common in polluted urban areas. Which is why some retailers are partnering with transporters that provide alternative solutions.

Examples: Especially in congested urban areas, it is smarter and greener to use faster and smaller vehicles such as: bicycle couriers for small deliveries, cargo-bike for large parcel deliveries, last-mile modular containerisation by e-cargo vehicle, water transport deliveries (e.g. by barge), real-time parcel tracking to ensure you never miss a delivery.

Note: If you instruct the courier to deliver to your neighbour, the seller will no longer be responsible for the parcel once it is received by the neighbour. For more information, see our article on deliveries in Europe.

Since the ban on geo-blocking in the European Union, a European seller cannot refuse to sell you a product based on your place of residence, nationality, bank account localisation etc. Nevertheless, delivery to your country can be refused if the seller doesn’t usually provide delivery there. In this case, you may have to organise the delivery of your purchase yourself. If you do, choose an environmentally friendly method of transport.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.