Climate change is an increasingly pressing issue in today's age, yet it's always daunting to address it at the scale that it is playing out and the timeframe needed to make a tangible change. But, without an active, collective drive to slow its effects, we understood that it would snowball until it is too late. Thus, we felt compelled to our best to create something that tackled this issue.
One thing we noticed was how fast same-day or two-day shipping had become ubiquitous in the online shopping industry, particularly with Amazon. We personally saw that with Amazon Prime, we had no option to choose otherwise, even though we didn't necessarily need packages within the next day. We later found out that the process of providing the service of same-day/two-day shipping is leading to large amounts of logistic inefficiency in the form of half-empty trucks, which means more trips and therefore higher carbon emissions. Freight vehicles, specifically medium- and heavy-duty trucks, are responsible for nearly one-quarter of the carbon footprint in the transportation category, which is the top producer of US carbon dioxide emissions. These short Amazon prime delivery times come at the expense of the environment. Research by Josué C. Velázquez-Martínez and Andrés Muñoz-Villamizar reflects this, showing that fast-shipping increased total costs up to 68%.
Ultimately, fast-shipping is very convenient for the consumer, but very expensive for the environment, especially when it isn't always necessary
What it does
SustainShip allows users to submit their online shipping orders (particularly Amazon) through a web interface, which groups packages together on common delivery dates to reduce the number of vehicles and back and forth routes to deliver packages. Users are able to track the carbon emissions they save by having their order as part of a particular shipment.
Delivery managers will have user orders grouped together into shipments through our platform, and will be able to distinctly see the emissions that will be saved when they do this haul instead of having separate hauls. The managers will be able to see the total amount of ecological savings their branch has through the app.
Ultimately, SustainShip serves to promote sustainable business practices and will inevitably lower carbon emissions from the climate conscious consumer and shipping marketplaces such as Amazon. These shipping marketplaces like Amazon will also benefit in business from making an eco-friendly choice and providing a green alternative to normal shipping for consumers.
How we built it
We used a mix of the latest frontend and backend technologies through MongoDB, Express, NodeJs, and React, along with many other complementary front-end libraries to ease implementation (eg. Material-UI). For user authentication, we used Passport.js with JWT authentication. Used Bcrypt to hash passwords and store user sessions in the browser as cookies. We also leveraged the google maps API to display a map with user locations. We also took current expected emission rates for fast shipping and expected current emissions estimates for Amazon lorries and calculated the emissions we'd save by offering our service, and bundling up consumer orders together.
Challenges we ran into
We had a lot of difficulty with the formatting of UI from some of the newer frameworks we used.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're proud that we were able to complete a project that worked towards an compelling cause.
What we learned
We learned a lot about the details and scale of climate change issues while brainstorming ideas and we also developed a stronger grasp of modern frameworks like React and Express
What's next for SustainShip
We'd like to continue building out some of its functionality and polishing it more.
Currently, our algorithm for calculating ecological footprint only takes into account the weight of the order. If not for the 24 hour time constraints, we would like to leverage a geolocation distance calculating API and integrate a pathfinding algorithm for delivery routes. Our calculated delivery route could then be incorporated in the calculation of ecological footprint.
Additionally, we believe our web interface is something that could be integrated into the Amazon website for a sustainable shipping option. That way users would not have to navigate to our app to submit their orders, and instead the Amazon marketplace could pull order information directly.
This integration is something that is essential, and delaying shipping will lower costs for amazon as well as improve customer satisfaction. Perhaps consumers could be rewarded for how much footprint they have saved with a credit system.