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If your company supports  e-commerce options for its customers, you have doubtless explored the idea of offering more than one shipping option th...

If your company supports  e-commerce options for its customers, you have doubtless explored the idea of offering more than one shipping option that is priced differently depending on how quickly the item makes it into your hands.

I personally love the Barnes and Noble service, which gives me free shipping if I delay the shipment of new books until all of them are available. I save money (because who doesn't love free stuff), while Barnes and Nobel also cuts its shipping costs -- and helps out the environment with a couple fewer packages.

Which brings me to the point of this blog: the virtues of green shipping.

I was actually pitched on this idea more than a year ago by RedPrairie, a company in Waukesha, Wis., that sells supply chain and retail applications. So I'll provide a brief synopsis, but mostly I'm going to point you to their white paper so you can read more on you own.

It is RedPrairie's contention that retailers can help cut their costs by guiding customers to shipping options that are better for their own bottom line AND that make customers feel better about buying from them. Suppose the following message popped up while you were buying something online:

"Your order is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday. However, if you want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 pounds of carbon dioxide, click here and your package will arrive on Thursday instead."

Of course there are times when people desperately need things overnight, but chances are many people would accept that offering if it was related to an item they didn't need right away.

There are definitely investments that a company would have to make in order to make this promise: For one thing, you'll need to know exactly how much carbon will be offset by recommending one shipping option over another, which means you'll need to use a transportation company or service that help you figure this out. This sort of process would also require changes to load balancing and it would mean getting smarter about delivery scheduling, bundling several in one area or even delivering a package outside of business hours.

This is definitely an instance where green can also be smarter. Way smarter.

Click here to access the entire white paper on the green shipping theory.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure