Green Warehousing – a beginner’s guide

Warehouse operations have substantial environmental impacts. To be sustainable, warehousing needs to find a balance between profit and sustainable or ‘green’ practices.


Green Warehousing – what is it?


At its most basic, green warehousing means reducing energy consumption. However, an inclusive green warehousing strategy can impact every area of warehouse activity from packaging to distribution, from pallet storage to logistics. In fact, logistics can be one of the easiest warehouse areas to ‘green’.  Greening your warehouse can offer a near immediate return on investment (ROI) and also allows you to position yourself as a leader in sustainable warehouse operation. There’s no denying that tansitioning to a greener warehouse is an investment, and while the upfront costs can look challenging, it’s important to be aware that you’ll continue to benefit from the changes that you make for years, even for decades. Those benefits include:


  • Reducing energy bills
  • Increasing sustainability throughout your business
  • Improving the environment for your employees
  • Reducing your carbon footprint
  • Developing a clearer, stronger brand image with both clients and suppliers.


green warehousing & logistics

So where should warehouse managers start?




As we’ve already said, logistics can be one of the first and easiest places to green your warehouse. Simple approaches can begin by optimising space in containers and pallet storage during transportation out of the warehouse because this reduces fuel consumption and shipping costs. A next step might be looking at the equipment you use to transport your stock. Electronic vehicles are one option and it might be that a 3PL who’s moved to hybrid or electric transport could be a simple move towards greening your warehouse operation. Within your warehouse space you can also use greener options such as a multi-purpose forklifts which can reduce the number of different vehicles (and operations) required to move stock around the warehouse.




It’s a simple fact that warehouses use a lot of packaging, this is a cost in itself, and can increase warehouse costs through the need to recycle and dispose of waste. Operating an effective recycling programme is a useful first step. Further steps can include implementing a system of reusing pallets, storage and packing materials can also reduce waste and cut costs. Eco-friendly packaging is a solution worth exploring, because while it can be more expensive upfront, it can reduce your energy costs, and also tends to give customers a great impression of your green credentials. This also helps keep material out of landfill which is better for the planet.


Storage Space


Greening your warehouse can be simple or complex. Easy first steps include ensuring that you properly label, store and pack goods. This reduces the potential for damage and lost, and decreases the cost centres around spoilage and waste. Pallet storage can be an effective next step to green your storage space, as it allows forklifts to move amounts of stock efficiently. Ensuring that your fast moving SKUs are easily accessible means that transit time and pick and pack time are both reduced, which will in turn reduce your energy and labour costs.




If you can reduce energy consumption, you can reduce your fuel bills, which can allow you to have a greater profit margin and/or more money to invest in greening your warehouse or other aspects of your organisation.  Redesigning your warehouse space can allow you to become greener by reducing your carbon footprint: solar panels and sustainable building materials can improve your space, if your warehouse rental lease permits, you can consider painting your warehouse roof a light reflective colours which reflects the sun away from your warehouse and can reduce cooling costs in summer. And for more intensive greening, you can consider green roofs, which improve the energy loss from uninsulated buildings.


Light emitting diode (LED) lights are standard now in most warehouse spaces, but make sure that you’ve looked at all your lighting – especially dock and outdoor garaging areas – to ensure that you’re not burning through energy unnecessarily. The great news is that they use up to 75% less electricity than traditional bulbs. And a final LED benefit; LED lights need replacing much less frequently so you save on maintenance costs and also keep your staff safer. And don’t neglect simple green solutions – using natural light, perhaps through skylights or open dock doors, where possible and light reflecting paint to improve the impact of whatever light you have, can be a way of cutting back on lighting costs as well as improving safety.


Bear in mind that your administration costs are also an energy drain – organisations where people are wandering around with sheafs of invoices and returns documents, bills of lading and customs papers are also organisations that tend to be using a lot of power to create, transmit and dispose of paperwork. There’s more on that below.


Temperature and humidity control


Poor insulation increases your energy bills but also can make your staff cold in winter and hot in summer. Better insulation can not only reduce costs but also gives your warehouse staff less extreme temperature ranges to cope with, which is more pleasant for them and will allow them to work more efficiently.




A paperless office might not seem like a huge green step, but warehouses tend to generate a lot of paperwork! Using an RFID warehouse management system can cut down on the amount of paperwork you generate and also gives you pinpoint accuracy as to the whereabouts of your stock.


Inside and out


If you have a warehouse exterior that you have control over, consider droughtscaping your exterior space, planting insect friendly planters, creating a small wildflower lawn or creating edible planters that your staff can harvest for herbs and fresh greens. Ensuring that you have offered your staff the most environmentally friendly experience is good for their mental health. And greening the exterior of your warehouse can reduce local pollution which can benefit your staff’s physical health too.


Final thoughts on green warehousing


Of course, greening your warehouse does depend on whether you own or rent, whether you’re located in a business park or a city centre and so on. But some or all of these initiatives will work whatever your warehouse space. And they’ll benefit the whole planet too.


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