Five Ways to “Green Up” Your Existing Warehouse/Distribution Center

Building a brand new building is probably the best way to incorporate “green” systems and processes into your warehouse or distribution center.  However, most companies are dealing with razor thin margins and need to instead make due with older and less efficient facilities.

This post will break down five small adjustments to existing operations that will serve to reduce impact on the environment (carbon footprint) and improve margins by reducing costs related to utilities, maintenance and time.

ecology logistics concept

1. Reviewing and updating equipment placement & flow

Forklifts are very good at telling us how many hours they’ve been running, but do not tell us the hundreds or even thousands of miles they travel throughout their useful life.

Utilizing a product slotting program to optimize the route and picking profile for orders will not only reduce the distance each forklift has to cover and the energy they consume, but it will also extend the useful life of the equipment.

Forklift “task interleaving” is also a great way to make the most use out of the forklifts. Task interleaving is a method of building queues of warehouse activity that are in close proximity to each other.  Basically, it makes sure the forklift is almost always carrying a load by eliminating drives in between tasks.

Worker loading pallet with a forklift into a truck.

2. Replace inefficient dock doors and seals 

Temperature loss and energy waste is a major factor in keeping your utilities in check.  It can be hard to avoid, but there are a few small adjustments you can make to reduce overall energy exchange.

  • Put in doors with higher insulation or an R-value that is in line with LEED requirements.
  • Install speed doors that open/shut more quickly.
  • Maintain tight seals around doors and seams.

3. Upgrade lighting and complete a utility audit

We have come a long way from old florescent glows and metal-halide buzzing.  If you are not considering upgrades to your lighting, you should.

ceiling lamps with diode lighting in a modern warehouse

Connect with a company like Managed Energy Systems to evaluate your utility bills and identify savings where you may have missed them.  Typically, they provide an audit at no charge and take a cut of the savings they create.  If they can’t save you money, they don’t get paid.  Who doesn’t like free???

You might also want to look at installing motion sensors to dampen or turn off lights when not in use.  As you may have seen from my last post regarding Murphy Logistics, allowing exterior lights to dampen can create savings without causing issues during downtime.

Food grade warehouses are edging toward newer and LED lighting systems as they do not require any plastic covers required for T-5 and T-8 bulbs.

4. Rethink your landscaping

Consider zero-scaping or (xeriscaping) areas that are costly to maintain.  You might also look at planting native grass and flowers near your building that require less maintenance.

Water retention and consumption can be enhanced by letting the native grasses grow wild since the native plants are accustomed to the regional climate; they typically require less watering.

Generating growth by joining forces

5. Minimize truck idle time

Idling trucks waiting for dock doors are a huge waste of energy, money and time.  For asset based firms, this could be a huge savings if managed correctly.

Some firms have opted for a climate controlled driver hospitality area that allows the drivers to shut off the engine and wait for a door in a temperature controlled environment at a fraction of the cost from idling.

Other considerations to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact

  • When replacing a roof, make sure the color of the rooftop is white or light colored to reflect heat.
  • Install skylights where clerestory windows are not available–skylights do require maintenance and may leak, but they provide a solution to reduce costs for lighting the space.  Some folks say they are more hassle than they are worth.
  • Install low flow fixtures in restrooms and break areas to reduce water consumption.
  • Use floor coverings, adhesives and paints when finishing break and office areas that have a lower VOC rating (volatile organic compounds).


Thanks for reading!



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