6 Ways to Make Your Warehouse Go Green

Posted by Sebastian Gomez, CEP on March 1, 2021
( Last updated on 20 July, 2021)
Sebastian Gomez, CEP

Over the past couple of years, you’ve no doubt heard the terms eco-friendly, sustainable, renewable, and green. The catchphrase “go green” can mean something different to everyone. The phrase incorporates lots of different actions and decisions that can be made with the goal of becoming more environmentally friendly to conserve natural resources and protect the environment. With climate change and global warming looming over our planet, it has become necessary for all industries to make important strides to implement green initiatives – and the logistics and supply chain industry is no exception. Buildings and their construction combined, account for 36% of global energy use and 39% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions annually. And with the number of warehouses on the rise due to production demands, the energy demand is only increasing. If substantial changes are not made, it is estimated that CO2 emissions related to buildings will increase by 10% by 2060.

As a warehouse owner, how can you make your facility greener without sacrificing productivity and profit?

One company that exemplifies going green is Nike. Since 2008, the company’s contract footwear manufacturers have cut energy use per unit by approx. 50%. This means that today, it takes about half the energy and generates around half the emissions to make Nike shoes as it did eight years ago. To give you a clearer idea of Nike’s manufacturing and distribution size, just one of their distribution centers in Memphis, Tennessee is a 2.8 million square foot building (equals to 49 football fields) and operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Just like Nike, companies of all sizes should be looking to make this shift towards carbon-neutral and zero waste – if they have not already. In this blog article, we will show you 6 ways to get you started in making your warehouse go green that are all achievable and cost-effective long-term – no matter how big or small your facility is.

1. Upgrade to High-Efficiency Lighting

Changing your warehouse lighting is one of the easiest ways to make your operations more eco-friendly. In the past, facilities used fluorescent or HID lamps in their warehouse lighting system. Today, with the technological advancement of LEDs (light-emitting diode), these are now used for every type of lighting application, including high bay lighting. Although LEDs are more expensive initially, they surpass the other types of lighting in terms of benefits by offering a longer lifespan, higher efficiency (LEDs use approx. 30-70% less electricity), reduced heat emission, and faster reaction time (can be switched on and off instantaneously). Add something about lighting on demand with motion sensors?

  Ceramic Metal Halide Six-Lamp T8 Fluorescent LED LED with Controls
Lamp Life (Hours) 24,000 60,000 100,000 100,000
Initial Lamp Output (lm/lamp) 25,000 3,100 13,000 13,000
Designed Lumens (40% of lamp life) 20,000 2,915 11,400 11,400
Fixture Input Power (W) 221 212 155 155
Fixture Efficiency (%) 90 90 100 100
Electricity Used (kWh/year) 1,105* 1,060* 775* 388*
Electricity Cost ($/year) 111* 106* 77.5* 39*
Annual Savings ($/year) 127* 137* 170* 209*
Life-Cycle Cost ($ over 10 years) 1,355* 1,160* 825* 438*
Figure 1. LEDs compared to other conventional lighting systems. *Assuming an operation of 5000 hours per year with an electricity cost of $0.10 per kilowatt-hour.

2. Use Electric Equipment: Propane vs. Electric Forklifts

To minimize the carbon footprint within a warehouse, the shift towards electric forklifts is necessary. In fact, electric forklifts are the most commonly used type of forklift. 60% of the North American market and 80% of the European market use electric forklifts. This makes an electric lift the most popular choice in the forklift market. These sleek machines do not rely on diesel fuel or gas but use large batteries usually ranging between 24-volt and 80-volt. They are solely powered by electricity, making them both economical and energy efficient. Since electric translates to zero emissions in your facility, these forklifts are ideal for food, beverage, and pharmaceutical warehousing and distribution, as well as for any environment that is required to be sterile. Overall, electric forklifts are cost-effective because their cost of ownership is significantly lower than traditional propane-fueled forklifts.

Toyota forkliftFigure 2. A Toyota electric forklift.

Electric Forklift Advantages:

  • Less maintenance and more compact
  • Much lower Emission Hourly Rate [kgCO2/h]
  • No harmful emissions
  • Quieter

Electric Forklift Drawbacks:

  • Initially more expensive than the LPG forklifts
  • Less options for specialized forklifts on the market currently
  • Deliver less torque and can be difficult to maneuver up ramps

rack-repair-replacement-infographic

 

3. Get High Volume, Low Speed (HVLS) Fans Installed

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVSC) systems in industrial buildings can cause electrical bills to climb due to inefficient distribution of air. Buildings with higher ceilings often experience significant heat stratification in the winter months where the warm air rises, and the colder air remains near ground level. The lack of convection air flow forces the heaters to work 2 to 3 times harder to sustain an adequate comfort level for warehouse workers, while most of the heat continues to be trapped in the ceiling space. The solution? High-volume, low speed (HVLS) fans.

Warehouse fanFigure 3. High Volume, Low Speed Fan (Cisco-Eagle)

Unlike a small, high-velocity fan that creates small, quicker air streams that quickly scatter, a high volume, low speed (HVLS) fan relies on size, not speed, to move a significant amount of air. The air is circulated from the ceiling and pushed throughout the area of the facility to prevent warm air from being trapped in the ceiling. The result is a constant state of thermal equilibrium within the building. In addition, HVLS fans give about 30 per cent energy savings as they bring down the temperature by 4°C.


Air distribution of HVLS fanFigure 4. Air distribution of HVLS fan (Watson, 2017)

4. Add Solar Panels to Your Building

Solar panels use the most reliable and cleanest energy source available in our solar system: the Sun. Energy saving solar panels (also known as PV panels) are growing in popularity for those looking to save on energy expenses. The initial price of installing solar panels may seem a bit high but one can expect a return on their investment long-term, including low electricity costs. There are 3 main types: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film panels.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels:

These are the most energy efficient of the three and use the highest quality silicon. They work well in low light situations.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels:

These are cleaner (no waste produced during production) and cheaper to make that monocrystalline solar panels. They perform poorly in low light.

Thin-Film Solar Panels:

Unlike monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels, thin-film panels are not made from silicon. These panels are made by stacking thin layers of photovoltaic material. They are not as efficient as the other two.

Solar panelsFigure 5. Solar panels installed on the roof of a building.
 

Solar energy panels require large surface areas. For large warehouses, solar panels are usually added to the roofs. Rooftop solar power can meet up to 20% of a warehouse’s electricity requirements. Solar panels are versatile because they can have multiple configurations and be installed on different kinds of roofs, including metal roofs, as long as it can support their weight.

5. Build a Green or Cool Roofing System

One way to decrease the temperature inside a warehouse is by adding a sustainable roofing system. Besides adding solar panels, there are other ways a roof can be green:

  • A cool roof which consists of reflecting solar radiation by installing light colored reflective material or painting the roof white.
  • A green roof which uses plants and greenery to reduce the thermal loads on the building.

Green roofs reduce the heat flux through the roof which decreases the amount of energy needed to heat and cool spaces. Shading the outer surface of the building envelope has been shown to be more effective than internal insulation. The plants on the roof trap dust and harmful gases to purify the air. The only negative would be that the additional structural load must be considered when designing the roofing system.


Roof types

Figure 6. Green roof compared to a traditional roof (BCIT, n.d.)

6. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Materials

Industrial materials that end up in landfills can be an environmental hazard. For the sake of sustainability and with the budget in mind, it makes sense to reuse and recycle materials whenever possible.

Reduce:

It is rare that you will find a warehouse that does not already have a cardboard baler to reduce the volume of recyclables. However, the use of cardboard boxes can be reduced by replacing them with metal or plastic containers that can be used, cleaned, and used again, lowering both material intake and operational costs.

Reuse:

Reusing materials can not only be more cost effective but also limit the amount of waste on the environment. The disposable stringer pallets have given way to reusable block or plastic pallets. Since plastic pallets have a much longer lifespan, companies don’t have to keep purchasing new pallets. Wood block pallets will last 15-20 trips through the supply chain, while high-quality plastic pallets are able to make 80-100 trips.

Recycle:

The advantage of sturdier materials like metal and plastic is that when they’ve become too worn to continue operations they can be melted down or reground and returned to use, lessening the environmental costs of harvesting and reducing landfill space. Scrap metal companies will often compensate a business for its unwanted metal, and plastic products can be ground down and reformed into other items including pallets.

LEED Certification

Nowadays, there are resources and standards for sustainable building design, the main one been LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system created to measure and define green building. It provides building and community verification that uses strategies to reduce environmental impacts, saving resources, impacting human health, reduce carbon emissions, and addressing climate change. LEED provides building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operation, and maintenance solution which can be applied to all building types. There are levels for LEED certification, which are based on a points system:

Certified 40-49 points
Silver 50-59 points
Gold 60-79 points
Platinum 80+ points

The more points you earn, the higher the certification. For warehouses and distribution centers, there are eight categories to earn a total of 109 points; six main categories and two bonus categories:

Location and Transportation  16 points
Sustainable Sites 10 points
Water Efficiency 11 points
Energy and Atmosphere 33 points
Materials and Resources 13 points
Indoor Environment Quality  16 points
Bonus: Innovation in Design  6 points
Bonus: Regional Priority 4 points
TOTAL 109 points

At Damotech, the environment is also important to us, which is why we operate out of a LEED-certified headquarters and manufacturing facility. It is the result of several years of careful planning to significantly optimize our production line, improve our environment performance, and ultimately, better serve our customers across North America. Some steps we’ve taken:

  • Going paperless and using technology and software to track orders and their production.
  • Painting products in-house – eliminating the need to outsource this step, greatly reducing lead time, extra transport, and packaging.
  • Facility built for energy efficiency, greater ventilation and recycling of heat emanating from the oven.
  • Use of electrostatic powder coated paint, a process that leads to less waste, offering a durable finish, and no harmful emanations (VOC).
  • No part of our manufacturing process requires water, meaning nothing is rejected in the sewage system.
  • All metal scraps are recycled.

The rack repair process itself is less wasteful as only the damaged part of the rack is removed, reducing the amount of steel that must be discarded.

A More Environmentally Conscious Future in Warehousing

It is important to review and analyze the different areas of production in your warehouse that you can make more efficient to have a more positive impact on the environment. And if you are an environmentally conscious company that is looking to reduce costs and run a safe and efficient operation, one significant part of this process is keeping your rack systems performing at their best. At Damotech, we can help you put an stop to the endless (and wasteful) cycle of upright replacement by focusing on permanent pallet rack repair and protection solutions.

If you are looking for a rack safety partner who can not only help you on your journey to running a cost-effect and safe warehouse, but who also shares the same concern for our environment, talk to one of our rack safety experts today.

References:

 
Adeleye, A. O. (2017, September 29). Human Body System and Building System Similarities. Retrieved from Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/human-body-system-building-similarities-adeleye-mnse-r-en-

Banker, S. (2015, April 7). Forbes. Retrieved from forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevebanker/2015/04/07/the-sustainable-warehouse/#5921027c44a0

BCIT. (n.d.). Retrieved from common.bcit.ca: https://commons.bcit.ca/greenroof/faq/why-green-roofs-benefits/

Berkeley Lab. (2011, November 3). Retrieved from newcenter.lbl.gov: https://newscenter.lbl.gov/2011/11/03/cool-roofs-really-can-be-cool/

Blogger, G. (2018, May 14). All Things Supply Chain. Retrieved from Allthingssupplichain.com: https://www.allthingssupplychain.com/11-simple-ways-your-warehouse-can-go-green/

Cisco-Eagle. (n.d.). How to Justify HVLS Fan System. Retrieved from Cisco-Eagle: https://www.cisco-eagle.com/catalog/category/3157/justifying-a-high-volume-low-speed-fan

Facchinni, F. (2016). Minimizing the carbon footprint of material handling equipment: Comparison of electric and LPG forklifts. Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management (JIEM), 13.
 
Forde, M. (2019, September 23). Supply Chain DIve. Retrieved from supplychaindive.com: https://www.supplychaindive.com/news/nike-distribution-center-100-renewable-energy/563497/
Global Status Report 2017. (2017). UN Environment, 48.
 
IGPS Ship Intelligently . (2018, July 24). Retrieved from igps.net: https://igps.net/blog/2018/07/24/green-warehouse-practices-running-an-eco-friendly-storage-warehouse/
 
Mcbride, B. (2018, August 22). Viribrigtht. Retrieved from viribright.com: https://www.viribright.com/lumen-output-comparing-led-vs-cfl-vs-incandescent-wattage/

Sustainable Logistics International. (2019, August 8). Retrieved from sustainablelogisticsinternational.com: https://www.sustainablelogisticsinternational.com/how-warehouses-can-reduce-their-carbon-footprint/
 
Understanding the Cost of Installing Solar Panels on a Warehouse . (2019). Retrieved from progolosis.com: https://www.prologis.com/about/resources/cost-of-installing-solar-panels-on-warehouse
 
Warehouses. (2020, June 5). Retrieved from OUC: https://ouc.bizenergyadvisor.com/article/warehouses
 

Topics: Sustainable Warehousing, LEED, Going Green, Environment-Friendly, Renewable Energy

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