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FREE SHIPPING a Promotional Strategy From the Past

Free shipping? Retail marketing can be greened with green transportation strategy

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Fossil fuel transportation and climate change Is "free shipping" an oxymoron?

In this day of climate change, asthma and cancer, is it realistic for a socially conscious company to offer "free shipping" as a marketing strategy?

I've been visiting with various leaders in the transportation chain -- from truckers to insurance salesmen to aerodynamics marketers to APU designers to state regulators to owner/operators...and retailers. And my takeaway is that we are overdosing on goods movement!

Addicted to oil? That's too simple. Addicted to cheap, invisible choice that depends on oil, distant manufacturing, cheap natural resources, localized environmental and health burdens...the list of effects from our 'cause' of runaway transportation seems endless.

No one WANTS to give anyone asthma. No one WANTS to have a plate of food travel 2,000 miles. No one WANTS to force companies to outsource manufacturing jobs. We hold our nose and just do it because everyone else is doing it. Because it is expected.

Identify your SYSTEM(s)

It's about the SYSTEM we have developed. Our system of commerce and lifestyle that has developed over the years. A system of urbanization. Of working outside the home. Of experts and outside discipline in the form of laws and compliance vs. integrity and personal judgment. A system of outsourcing. A system of abundance vs. frugality.

And then we justify more frantic business activity by stating the obvious. We can't work for 50 cents a day. Of course not! We have given up our home's productivity. We've outsourced child care, clothing production, furniture production, education, entertainment, sex, religion, and even food preparation. We've outsourced our lives!

And then we fill those empty spaces in our personal life with more stuff, more travel, more frantic out-there behavior.

And the system grows.

That's what systems do. They grow with what is put into practice. Just like the natural system of air, water, land, plants. The earth's natural systems produce air, water, and plants to replace what came before. When the system is tampered with, different results are produced. By adding more pollutants, this system produces more heat, more disease, more violent weather -- as the system tries to adjust to the changed input.

Refine Your Systems

So what's the 'solution'? (I try to bring articles back to that solution-base).

We must look beyond the obvious for real solutions. Real solutions get back to working WITH natural systems, not abusing them.

Cutting emissions is obvious. Reducing the number of miles invested in each purchase we make is 'beyond the obvious'.

Providing honest work for every man, woman and child in our country is obvious. Bringing back some of that time to the home and family to balance a sense of community, realistic parenting, frugality and quality of beyond the obvious.

Submerging the cost of transportation in the cost of a product is obvious. Letting customers and clients know how far a product travels is respecting their right to know and provides them with real choice. That's beyond the obvious.

One of my pet peeves about websites these days is that companies don't tell the viewer where they are located. Finding resources in your own state or city is very difficult. Is that being socially and environmentally responsible given our emissions emergency?

Earth is In a State of Emergency

We have less than 10 years to put the pieces of Humpty Dumpty back together again. At that point ... and it might be sooner than 10 years...or it might take 15 years -- science isn't an exact science, but it's the best we've got. At that point, the natural system will hit a tipping point kind of like chugging up a hill and reaching the crest ... from there the momentum is all downhill! We won't be able to put the brakes on the vast forces at work.

We haven't been able to design or control weather patterns -- create rain during a drought or reduce the force of a hurricane. Nature is still bigger than we are. That's obvious. But what we're struggling with is beyond that obvious scale. We ARE changing the weather one mile at a time. One outsourced product at a time. And it is adding up in a SYSTEM of changed global weather patterns. We are changing the earth with waste -- a system of seemingly, unlimited abundance in a delicately balanced, closed system called earth.

The earth's natural resources are limited. And the ability of the earth to maintain it's delicately balanced, complex systems is also limited. If we don't want to see massive loss of life and property because of increasing weather volatility and its impact, we must reduce our footprint(s) on the earth.

Reduce Your Footprint by 50%

That reduction requires sacrifice by each of us. Contrary to popular opinion, sacrifice isn't a bad thing. Sacrifice is obvious. Beyond what looks like sacrifice lies real life that can be so much better than what we are sacrificing.

For example, when you give up transporting food 2,000 miles, you discover the fresh taste of food grown in your local area. When you sacrifice cheap goods from halfway around the world, you discover craftsmen who are your neighbors. When you give up working 60 hours a week to earn enough money to take a long vacation with your family, you rediscover your children who are hungry for your time every evening. There is high value beyond obvious sacrifices.

The solutions:

Reduce transportation. Increase localization.

Reduce blindness to excesses. Increase truth in marketing.

Reduce stuff. Increase personal relationships.

Reduce loopholes and compliance. Increase personal responsibility.

Reduce footprints on the earth. Increase real life.

Everyone's system is different. Only you can design a better approach that is less wasteful, more respectful of this real, closed system world.

It's up to each of us -- and it's no longer an option. We're in an emergency. There is no "free shipping". Everything has a cost whether or not we know what it is. What will you and I do about it?

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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