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E-Commerce Goes Green: Navigating EPA Regulations For Environmentally Responsible Operations

Paper cutout of hands holding a stylized globe with a heart above it, all against a green background complying with EPA regulations.

EPA regulations must react swiftly to craft comprehensive rules for the influx of e-commerce small businesses (SMBs) and marketers.

It all has an impact on your shop. E-commerce has an inarguable influence on the world’s health. Environmental allies are pushing to get ahead of the game before hyperconsumerism’s adverse effects further harm the planet. 

Here are some of the actions the EPA is taking to mitigate environmental damage and help you lead a more responsible storefront.

The Green Power Partnership 

The Green Power Partnership is an EPA-led voluntary program that aims to hold e-commerce and its supply chains accountable for energy use. The goal is to guide applicants to U.S.-made green power that curbs air and water pollutants. 

Becoming a part of the outfit means adding to the cumulative 12.2 billion kilowatt-hours of clean energy produced by partners. The framework asks all types of leaders to apply, including e-commerce business owners and government administrators. The collaboration will spark more comprehensive progress nationwide.

E-commerce leaders must file reports on power usage benchmarks, highlighting how critical thoughtful leadership is to eco-conscious momentum in the industry. It is not a regulation, but there are strict requirements if businesses want to enter the rankings of other qualified entities. Online companies can use any eligible power sources approved by the EPA, such as geothermal or biomass.

Cathode Ray Tubes

Buyers seek countless electronics and gadgets from e-commerce companies, which leads to dangerous landfill contents. E-waste is a layered, global concern, and cathode ray tubes are one of the first electronic items the EPA began to regulate for the planet’s health and people living near dumping grounds. 

CRTs contain high concentrations of lead and can be found in computer monitors and televisions. Regulations require e-commerce companies to report the products they export that include them and how sites can recycle their stocks. 

Determining Water Ownership

You may not acknowledge how your e-commerce company relies on or uses nearby waterways, but it is essential for EPA compliance. What you mail, produce and source ships by water or pollutes with manufacturing or transportation byproducts. A landmark court case decision determined what waters the EPA had jurisdiction over and what SMBs control. Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency helped businesses lay claim over their wetlands. 

It determined that the EPA does not have the authority to regulate a property’s water. E-commerce companies must stay attentive to changes to this ruling in the future because it dictates how everything from transportation to manufacturing operates with their nearby waters. 

Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP)

The GHGRP allows importers and exporters to let the EPA know environmental metrics. Your e-commerce business must measure carbon emissions to understand whether you need to file. The EPA collates all the data companies submit, including online stores, and creates the yearly Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks to learn about sectors’ impacts on the planet. It is one of the most specific insights. 

It usually applies to environmentally specific sectors like coal- or petroleum-based products. However, these industries inextricably linked e-commerce with fossil fuel-based transportation to meet next-day shipping expectations. The e-commerce industry must pay attention to the EPA’s protocol. 

Related industries, such as international transportation and expedited manufacturing, are feeling the pressure and releasing carbon emissions to match. You can rely on technology to identify sustainable changes like carbon emissions reduction or suggestions for improving packaging to reach more eco-conscious metrics.

Chemical Substances

Online stores that produce products with chemicals must navigate EPA regulations to ensure their items are safe for sale. Volatilepesticides and cleaning products receive special attention.

Additionally, SMBs control and monitor pollutants based on the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts in the U.S. and related protocols in other countries to minimize chemical spread and increase accident prevention. SMB e-commerce stores must keep tabs on these acts, as legislators frequently challenge or amend them, changing retail landscapes and their environmental obligations without warning.

Online shops have to regulate what kind of liquid chemicals they sell. The EPA issued a “Stop Sale” order on e-commerce giant Wish for selling illegal disinfectants it did not approve or test. Press releases like this inform companies how paying attention to environmental regulation is inherently tied to human health. Without the EPA pulling this from Wish’s site, people could have been exposed to harmful chemicals.

The Future of EPA Regulations for E-Commerce

Explicitly addressing SMBs is an oversight in the EPA. It provides blanket regulations for the best green e-commerce practices that only sometimes translate to SMBs, how they operate, what resources they have, or what products and services they provide. Eventually, EPA regulations will make their determinations more specific so SMBs do not have to continually translate what is irrelevant to them.

Nothing is certain with regulation, even when the EPA institutes changes that alter e-commerce procedures. However, entities can contribute to consistency. E-commerce businesses must lobby against the nondelegation doctrine. It explains that the EPA has the expertise to make the most well-informed decisions regarding online shopping’s sustainability. 

Historically, lawmakers have almost revived these practices, reverting decision-making to governments without industry specialization. The value and progress of EPA regulation relies on it being based on evidence and experience. E-commerce SMBs and sector professionals ensure environmental progress by increasing awareness.

Making E-Commerce Healthier for People and the World

The COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed online shopping to an unprecedented degree, especially with trends like dropshipping and social shopping. Navigating EPA regulations to make your e-commerce store more sustainable is an opportunistic challenge. Whether you’re an SMB or rising to online fame, the EPA has the knowledge to catapult your operation into a more sustainable future.

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