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By Going Local, Americans Can Tackle The Shipping Emissions Conundrum

Maritime shipping is responsible for 3% of total global greenhouse emissions, a disproportionate impact given the size of ships.

Sustainability, Shipping, Emissions, GHG, Consumerism, Sustainable Consumerism, SDG12, Pollution, Air Quality, Air Pollution, Waste, Environment, Sustainable Business, The SustainabilityX® Magazine


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The majority of the goods that reach American shores are carried by ship, and that has huge consequences when it comes to climate change. Research estimates by Yale Climate Connections conclude that maritime shipping is responsible for 3% of total global greenhouse emissions, a disproportionate impact given the size of ships. The impact on the oceans, where the waste products of fuels and industry are discharged, is untold. Maritime shipping, like many forms of travel, is damaging to the environment. Mitigating its impact is crucial, and something that is being achieved - slowly - in the USA.

The Rise Of Local

The weaknesses of maritime shipping have been exposed by the ongoing LA ports shipping crisis. Now stretching back months, the pileup in container ships caused by labor shortages in the port and supply chain bumps elsewhere is, according to the World Economic Forum, finally starting to get moving. Such a situation could easily arise again, however, and changes such as Eastern Seaboard focused shipping have only done so much. Americans have increasingly looked to small-scale, nationally based deliveries, using shipping calculations to keep costs down in the process. As long-established science has shown, this is an effective way of pushing down emission costs in the long-term.

The Road And Emissions

Cars are not in themselves eco-friendly. Neither are trucks. Both contribute a huge amount of the total emissions burden, but less, per capita, than other forms of shipping. Indeed, the EPA SmartWay program, which rewards green shippers and provides accredited advice to businesses, has a large proportion of road-based businesses. Furthermore, with the increase in EV alternatives, and large-scale commercial operations like Tesla and GM producing electric vehicles for shipping, new options are on the horizon. These, paired with the now inexorable rise of drone delivery, make business shipping a far more green process for businesses willing to put in the investment.




Drone Delivery

The company most linked to drone delivery was always going to be shipping giants Amazon. However, as Time notes, their efforts largely petered out over the course of the past two years. This doesn’t mean the drone is dead. In Edmonton, CBC report that drone operators have developed their business model to a greater degree and are now leading an eco-friendly ‘hub and spoke’ delivery system, where electric vehicles bring consignments to a central point where they are then taken to the doorstep (remotely, too, via operators in New York). This is a truly renewable and eco-friendly shipping route; from green vehicles, to electric UAV, to the doorstep where the delivery can then be recycled down the line. All in, a far superior alternative to the excesses of maritime (and air) shipping.

The coastal pileup of containers has shown there is another way for shipping. Locally focused, bespoke deliveries cut down on emissions and are, crucially, more sustainable. That’s true both for the planet and for the shipping system the USA relies on.


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