The globalized economy and the rise of online shopping has increased the demand for international shipping, and over 80% of global trade (by weight) is carried out using ships.

Every day, five million barrels of fuel are used to move ships across the world, which accounts for 11% of the total emissions from the transportation sector.

Ships in the San Diego Harbor

Below are some opportunities for improving the efficiency of global shipping, as well as ways to reduce our dependency on foreign goods.

Voluntary Emissions Ratings

Initiatives such as the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Carbon War Room and RightShip are working hard to drive improvements in the fuel efficiency and carbon footprint of global commercial shipping fleets. Since maritime emissions are not currently regulated, several groups have started voluntary certification programs (similar to LEED® but for ships) to distinguish efficient ships from more polluting ships.

The Port of San Diego’s Green Port Program encourages sustainable shipping practices

Buy Local

Shopping locally is one transparent way for every person to reduce the amount of fossil fuels used to bring goods to you. Choosing items that are available close to home rather than things that have to travel from across the world (for example apples vs. bananas in North America, or secondhand toys rather than newly manufactured toys) is an effective way to lower the carbon footprint of your purchases.

Trendy swing imported on a ship from across the world

Improving Efficiency on Board

Some ways ships are being retrofitted for efficiency include coating the ship’s hull with a sharkskin-like coating to repel algae and barnacles (which can cause drag and increase fuel consumption by 40%). Using solar panels to provide electricity on board is another way to reduce the bunker fuel used in shipping.

The Port of San Diego’s Vessel Speed Reduction Program reduces air pollution and GHG emissions

Examine Your Purchasing of Imported Goods

From oil for your car, to rice for your dinner, to running shoes for your workout – many of the things we use every day come from long distances. Every step you take to reduce your consumption of fossil fuels is a step in the right direction (less use of gasoline results in less imports of oil, reducing emissions not only from your own car but also from the ships bringing the oil to you). The next time you are shopping online, ask yourself if the same item or similar could be bought closer to home (or even secondhand!).

Shop Local!

Actions You Can Take Today:

  • Buy Local! Look through your recent online shopping purchases (i.e. your Amazon order list) and try to find local options for the same items

Related LEED® v4 Credits:

  • LEED BD+C, MRc Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Sourcing of Raw Materials (1-2 pts)