Two Courier Companies that Put Sustainability First

I love the month of April because it is filled with all sorts of visual delights and brief warm weather spurts. Also, I’m kind of obsessed with sustainability, and it just so happens that April is the official month of sustainability!

To celebrate April and all of its green glory, Courier interviewed a few courier companies that keep their operations green and efficient.

First up: Franklin Jones, CEO and founder of B-Line Sustainable Urban Delivery, in Portland, Org.:

Courier Magazine: What does your company do and when was it formed?

Jones: B-line Sustainable Urban Delivery first rolled onto the streets of Portland in February 2009. B-line utilizes large electric-assisted freight tricycles to deliver a wide range of products into the urban commercial center. Rather than a traditional bike courier company, B-line focuses on last-mile logistics with daily routes to serve our clients. 

CM: What made you start your company?

Jones: After teaching for many years, I was eager to be a ‘doer’ and B-line was a great opportunity to combine a long-term interest with what I hoped to be a viable vocation. B-line emerged from a desire to try to build a company that could harness the power of business to improve our environment and strengthen our communities.

CM: How sustainable is your delivery company?

Jones: I'd say we are about as sustainable as you can get! Our whole business model is based on trip reduction of larger vehicles. To date, our efforts have helped avoid over 30,000 truck or van based deliveries and an estimated 18 metric tons of CO2 emissions. On top of our services, our internal operations keep our footprint as minimal as possible.

CM: What do you think other delivery companies could do to improve their efficiency?

Jones: The larger companies are incredibly efficient and we often look at their models and try to see how we may adapt as we grow. The smaller, ubiquitous ‘white truck’ operations often are hindered by the fact that they are single trip/route focused. There are tremendous efficiencies to be gained with greater diversification, collaboration, consolidation, and reverse logistics. Of course, all of this adds complexity and that is something many wish to avoid.

Next up: Jenn Dederich, business development and marketing professional, dispatcher, and rider at Portland Pedal Power:

Courier Magazine: What does your company do and when was it formed?

Dederich: Portland Pedal Power provides delivery concierge and active advertising by bicycle. Our mission is to revolutionize business within urban centers by connecting and strengthening the local economy through professional delivery and promotions.

Portland Pedal Power was founded in May of 2009. We started with one cargo bicycle and an idea of how we could carry product. Today, we have a 11 Pyxis (PPP custom enclosures with highly visible advertising space mounted on heavy-duty cargo bicycles) fleet that showcases mobile ads for our sponsors while we are delivering the best products in Portland from over 45 of the hottest local restaurants, food carts, grocery stores, and bakeries. Our trained riders are in the densest parts of Portland (downtown, PSU, Pearl, NW, Lloyd District, inner NE and inner SE) from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

CM: What made you start your company?

Dederich: In our thirst for the perfect job, four people from different backgrounds have come together to form Portland Pedal Power, a member-managed company based on consensus decision-making. Our owner/employee team is dedicated to building a model that provides options to how we do business, and healthy employees, locally sourced product, zero carbon emissions, and unique advertising opportunities.

Portland is Portland Pedal Power’s Petri dish. This is the perfect environment to test alternatives to the norm, and being the most bicycle friendly city in the U.S., the cycling alternative was easily accepted. PPP takes the love of the bicycle and community and implements it with Portland zeal, removing vehicles from the road one delivery at a time.

CM: How sustainable is your delivery company?

Dederich: Very! PPP works hard to decrease our collective footprint. We not only deliver your product through human-to-bike power, we also work with our vendors/customers to decrease the amount of waste generated from delivery. Our normal practice is to provide no plastic utensils/napkins, to family pack all orders, and we even deliver in reusable containers that we personally take back to the restaurant for reuse.

Additionally, we work to improve our community by supporting local non-profits and advocacy groups, including but not limited to the Community Cycling Center, BTA, MS Walk/Bike, Providence Bridge Pedal, and more. The community feeling of Portland is legendary, and Portland Pedal Power hopes to foster that sense of community by working directly with our vendors and customers.

Further, the majority of our partners and vendors use sustainable, ecologically friendly business practices, which we highlight through our ads and media activities. Many of our vendors offer sustainably raised or grown food products, and the majority of our vendors offer dietary alternatives for the sustainable minded, such as vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free products.

Courier Magazine: What do you think other delivery companies could do to improve their efficiency?

Dederich: As I am sure we are all aware, delivery/courier technology is now offering logistical software that replaces dispatchers that know cities and routing. PPP is attempting to take advantage of the newest cutting edge software to track our fleet and increase our delivery efficiency.

While we could idealistically say, “don’t deliver by car,” this would be impractical in many cases. Instead, delivery companies should be mindful of distance traveled and time on the road. We have found in dense urban city centers that we are able to complete last-mile delivery faster than a vehicle. If feasible, more economical and sustainable options could be implemented, which would cut costs, promote sustainability, and provide a long-term benefit to both the environment and the community. Delivery companies by definition are on the road indefinitely, and their overall carbon footprint strongly depends on their delivery style. Why waste fuel when there are perfectly good alternatives?