When we think of islands, it is easy for our minds to quickly conjure idealized images of white sands, blue water, and lush, verdant plant life. For many people around the world, this fantasy is a daily reality; according to worldatlas.com, an estimated 600 million people live on islands. While the lack of a universally agreed upon definition of an island makes their total number impossible to quantify, we know that there are around 2000 ocean islands globally. For many island inhabitants, the aesthetic quality of their environment takes on a special importance. However, this isolated setting comes at a cost: many resources must be brought to the island from elsewhere. Fortunately, air and ocean cargo services are numerous and accessible. In fact, the air cargo industry alone represents an estimated 30% of total shipment value worldwide.
With shipments occurring globally at such a massive scale, how does everything get where it needs to go in an organized manner? The answer lies in freight forwarders, middlemen who facilitate the actual movement of goods from their original point of manufacture to their final destination—whether it be to a market or directly to the consumer. Often, air and ocean cargo with international destinations require additional preparation and documentation. Freight forwarding companies work to ensure that this extra work is completed in advance so as to avoid any issues with customs.
Now, it is true that the large amount of air and ocean cargo required to keep an island’s population supplied does take a toll on the environment. However, as time goes on, this impact is gradually being reduced. In her article, “What’s the Greenest Way to Ship Packages?”, Sustainable America writer Amy Leibrock points out that shipping companies are making improvements that help their bottom line by reducing fuel usage. In some cases, this process has become so streamlined that door to door shipping “can have a lighter carbon footprint than going to the store.” Yet it is important to note that these efficiencies are negated by expedited shipping. Leibrock recommends avoiding two-day shipping when possible to maximize sustainability.