UPS’s Green Shipping Program

by heather

I have family and friends scattered all over the country. Which means, I’m no stranger to the UPS store.

Now, I’d heard about how UPS redid all their routes so that they avoided left turns. And I even saw the Mythbusters episode where they proved, without a doubt, that this DID reduce gas consumption. So kudos for them.

But what I didn’t know is that UPS has a carbon neutral shipping program. Under the program, you can pay a bit more to offset the carbon emissions of your shipment.

And we’re not talking major bucks here…we’re talking 5 cents for a ground package, 20 cents for an air package, and 75 cents for an international package. The money goes to purchase carbon offsets from Garcia River Forest Climate Action Project, which is overseen by the Nature Conservatory. And the cool thing is that UPS is 100% matching all carbon offsets through 2010.

Carbon Banking

So after I found out about UPS’s Green Shipping Program, I was excited but still had some questions.

For instance, what does it mean when you pay that extra 20 cents? What does that money actually DO?

Although the UPS site has some great information, it was a bit lacking in this department. So I went digging, and found my answers on NPR, who interviewed two of the scientists that  help run the Garcia River Project.

Here’s the rundown, in plain English:

UPS has carefully calculated the carbon impact of every package it ships. This has been, and will continue to be, third-party verified with the SGS Climate Change Program. That’s how they came up with the monetary offsets.

Now, when you pay that extra 20 cents, it goes to the Garcia River Project. The scientists and non-profits that run the project use that money to do several things: one of them is to thin out the Big River Forest.

Yeah I know…it doesn’t SOUND like you’re offsetting your carbon right? Not if they’re cutting down trees. Well, there’s a good explanation.

The scientists say that if you don’t trim forests, then it’s just like when you don’t weed your garden. The good stuff gets choked out, and the entire plot is not near as productive as it could be.

Well, that’s exactly what it’s like in the Big River Forest. The thinner trees get cut down, leaving the big redwoods more space and resources to grow bigger, at a faster rate.

According to NPR, a typical 25-inch-diameter redwood can store about a ton of carbon. And, they said it best here: The accounting is tricky. If you cut down a tree, its carbon eventually goes up into the atmosphere. Foresters have to prove their “weeding” will produce a net gain – meaning more carbon will be stored in the trees that remain and grow than is released when the foresters weed.

The calculations definitely sound tricky. And I’m sure they also have to offset the carbon intake the trees they’re cutting down would have made if left standing.

I had no idea forestry was getting so complicated.

Hand Over That Nickel…

Frankly, I’m amazed that a measly nickel is enough to offset a package I’m sending across the country. But UPS, and their their-party verifiers, swear their numbers are accurate. I don’t know how I’d come close to calculating it myself, so I guess I’m just going to have to trust them.

The program starts nationwide July 12, so if you have to ship something after that then hand over that extra nickel and help those redwoods suck some more carbon out of the air.

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{ 1 comment }

lynnette McIntire July 7, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Dear Heather, I work on sustainabiity projects at UPS. I’m thrilled you did all this due diligence on our program. We really do work hard to be credible with our green efforts and appreciate your thoughtfulness. Lynnette McIntire

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