Sustainable warehouse management doesn’t have to involve massive, expensive initiatives. Major overhauls like switching entirely to solar power or buying an electric fleet of trucks, for example, aren’t practical for improving the sustainability of a facility on a budget. The best options are simple ideas that make a positive difference almost immediately.
That’s not to say larger initiatives are impossible, just that it’s often best to focus on smaller projects that lead to cost savings. Freeing up some money in the budget then makes it more likely you’ll have the resources necessary to make larger changes down the road. Starting with small, practical ideas for sustainable warehouse management will help support those big picture ideas when the time comes.
Three Simple Sustainable Warehouse Management Ideas
Sustainability is a subset of environmental awareness that focuses on the preservation of natural resources. As many steps in the supply chain create waste and use energy, this is a major topic of discussion in the industry. While opinions on the effectiveness of various routes to sustainability differ, there are three ideas that just about everyone agrees can make a difference in a warehouse’s sustainability.
#1: Switch to Plastic Pallets
Plastic pallets have several features that allow companies to reduce their usage of natural resources. The first is their weight. These pallets typically weigh less than 50 pounds, while traditional, reusable wood pallets may weigh 80 pounds or more. Reducing the weight of the pallet lightens truckloads and results in less fuel burned and less greenhouse gas released. On top of that, as pallets make up less of the weight limit of a given load, more inventory can be transported in a single trip. This further reduces fuel usage.
Unlike wood pallets, plastic pallets do not contribute to landfill waste.
Plastic pallets do not contribute to deforestation as wood pallets can. Deforestation is a major concern not just because of the depletion of natural resources, but because trees serve a valuable role in filtering out carbon emissions. By using plastic pallets instead of wood, supply chain managers can ensure they’re protecting valuable resources. Unlike wood pallets, plastic pallets also do not contribute to landfill waste as they’re made of easily recyclable materials. High-quality reusable plastic pallets are valuable assets that remain in the supply chain until they are ground down and used to make new pallets.
#2: Use Sensors and LEDs to Control Energy Usage
Warehouses and distribution centers can easily be outfitted with sensors that can monitor everything from light usage to optimal temperatures in refrigerated units. When a room is occupied, the sensors can trigger the lights to come on. When it is empty, they will shut them down. In a warehouse that might use thousands of watts of power a month, these simple automatic features can result in significant savings.
High-pressure sodium lighting can be one way to increase energy efficiency.
LED lighting works very well in conjunction with these types of sensors, reducing a facility’s overall energy use even further. For large warehouses with high bay lighting, it’s not always possible to take advantage of LEDs without undertaking the major project of retrofitting all lighting fixtures in the warehouse. In these cases, high-pressure sodium lighting can be one way to increase energy efficiency without retrofitting fixtures.
#3: Paint the Roof
You don’t have to replace the roof or cover it with solar panels to reduce the energy usage of a warehouse—though those are great ideas. Instead, it’s possible to see immediate energy savings simply by painting the roof a lighter color. While darker roofs absorb sunlight, light-colored paints and shiny finishes reflect it away from the building.
This is often referred to as a cool roof, because by reflecting UV rays away from the building instead of absorbing them, the inside of the building stays cooler, reducing air conditioning costs. For many companies, the cost of repainting the roof or adding specialized sheeting is well worth the expense when compared to the energy savings.
Getting Employee Buy-In on Green Initiatives
One of the biggest barriers to change is the absence of employee participation. If new sustainable warehouse practices create loads of additional work, it’s unlikely that they’ll enthusiastically greet the change. Additionally, some changes could reduce morale and productivity, which will lessen the value of any new initiative. It’s important to consider eco-friendly options that also benefit employees in order to gain buy-in.
Plastic platforms are lighter and easier to handle than wood pallets.
Plastic pallet pooling is an excellent example of such a strategy. It uses a sustainable business model in which pallets are rented, rather than owned. This reduces the fossil fuel needed to transport them for cleaning, repairs, and disposal, and also saves warehouses space which would otherwise be needed to store them. As a result, employees have fewer tasks related to pallet management. Plastic platforms are also lighter and easier to handle and are less likely to cause injury to workers. As this is a change that benefits both employees and the environment, managers won’t have to struggle to gain support for this initiative.
LED lighting systems outfitted with sensors are another good example of a win-win idea, since they take the onus off employees to remember to turn lights on and off and allow light bulbs to last much longer between changes. These types of sustainable warehouse practices require almost no additional work from employees and in some cases even lessen their workload, ensuring that green warehouse initiatives have the support of everyone involved.
Sustainable warehouse management does not have to be a burden or a huge expense. Simple, easy-to-make changes like plastic pallet use, cool roof installation, and adding sensors and LED lighting can lessen the consumption of valuable natural resources and make work easier for everyone.
Renting lightweight and 100% recyclable iGPS plastic pallets fits naturally into any sustainable warehouse management strategy. For more details on our pallets or our pooling program, contact us at 1-800-884-0225, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.