What are the most eco-friendly shipping options?

Companies are increasingly looking at efficient methods of delivery to meet faster and more personalised delivery needs. This includes both eco-conscious methods and contactless delivery methods. Packaging manufactures RAJA UK offer insights into the future of last-mile logistics and what they think the future of product distribution looks like.

Methods of delivery transportation and the emissions they produce

A domestic flight produces 53.45g more CO2e per km than your average long-haul flight. It would be better to use a hybrid or Battery-Powered Electric Vehicle (BEV) for domestic deliveries. Green fleets are the future of delivery. An average petrol car produces 75.27g more CO2e than the average hybrid car and 133.57g more CO2e than your average BEV car.

Modes of transportation for distribution

Emissions in grams of CO2e per km
Domestic flight 244.3
Regular taxi 203.69
Long-haul flight 190.85
Average car (petrol) 174.3
Average car (diesel) 168.44
Short-haul flight 155.53
Average car (hybrid) 115.58
Average motorbike 113.37
Average ferry 112.86
Average local bus 103.12
Average car (BEV) 57.28
National rail 36.94
Coach 27.32
Drone 26.8
Bike 16

CO2 emitted per customer based on driverless vehicles

E-vans consistently emit the least amount of CO2, with only 0.9% produced for 200 customers served. Of the RADRs, the Udelv brand produces the least amount of CO2 per 200 customers served. Drones consistently emit more CO2 than their other driverless counterparts. It emits 2.7% more than the Sidewalk Autonomous Delivery Robots.

Safety precautions due to COVID-19 increased the need for contactless delivery in the last mile of package delivery systems.

Below is a look at the newer methods of transportation for the last mile from the warehouse to consumers’ front doors. This includes electric vans (E-vans), Sidewalk Autonomous Delivery Robots (SADRs) and Road Autonomous Delivery Robots (RADRs) – the brands NURO and Udelv are used in the example below. The table below shows the carbon emissions of the electric vehicles as a percentage of the carbon emissions generated by the ICE Dodge RAM vehicle as the baseline for this experiment. This is because it generates 22.5 more CO2 equivalent emissions.

Customers served Vehicle type
  SADR +MS* NURO Udelv E-van Drone
25 1.4% 0.6% 0.8% 0.9% 1.4%
50 2.1% 0.9% 0.8% 0.9% 2.3%
100 2.5% 1.0% 0.8% 0.9% 3.7%
200 3.1% 1.4% 1.1% 0.9% 5.8%

*Mothership not utilised when distance is 0.

The greenest way to send packages

The most eco-conscious way to send something internationally is via international rail, which produces only 0.01 tonnes. A return flight from London to Barcelona would produce 0.34 tonnes of CO2e. Bikes are the most eco-responsible way to send something locally, producing only 0.0001 tonne of CO2e per trip.

If you’re looking to send a small cardboard package somewhere close to home (within 5 miles), the bike or the drone is your best option. A bike ride or a drone flight (carrying a package up to 0.5kg) only produces 0.0001 tonnes and 0.0008 tonnes of CO2e respectively.

However, for a delivery further afield, such as from Kings Cross to Edinburgh for example, your best bet is to go for the national rail, which produces only 0.02 tonnes of CO2e during the trip. If public transport isn’t for you, a hybrid vehicle should be your next option. It emits 0.5 tonnes in the 401 miles compared to its petrol counterpart, which produces more than double the CO2e of 0.11 tonnes.