Achieving Net Zero Case Study: Zero Emissions Delivery in LB Waltham Forest

Combining an efficient zero-carbon fleet of cargo bikes and trikes with a self-built logistics IT platform, LB Waltham Forest’s Zero Emissions Delivery (ZED) scheme not only makes local deliveries more efficient but also keeps the streets healthy. With communities coming together in recent months and streets opening up for better and safer cycling, FoL’s Knowledge & Events Intern Kana Nomoto explains why ZED is a perfect example of how to implement net-zero initiatives at a local scale for long-term change.

The history of the scheme

The ZED scheme was first introduced in 2016 as part of LB Waltham Forest’s Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) for 2017–2022, securing funding from the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund. Since the funding ended in March 2019, the scheme has been supported by the council’s Carbon Offset Fund.

London Mayor Sadiq Kahn launched the third round of the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund as he visited LB Waltham Forest. Source: LB Waltham Forest & BBC News. 

The council have been measuring air quality levels since 1993 and the plan ambitiously declared a borough-wide Air Quality Management Area, with focus areas where there are high levels of nitrogen oxide (NO2) and particular matter (PM10). Like many other parts of London, these emissions are primarily caused by heavy road traffic.

Following a successful ‘Christmas Courier’ pilot project, which saw more than 1,000 parcels delivered to local residents, ZED partnered up with Outspoken! Delivery (now Zedify) to launch a full service in September 2017. In 2019 ZED delivered 49,738 packages and traveled over 21,000 miles – and the service is growing with a 10% increase in business each month.

Reliable, efficient and sustainable deliveries

The key to ZED’s success is the combination of efficient transport with smart technology. Their core fleet consists of cargo bikes, trikes and electric vans. (Vans support larger and longer distance deliveries, but have zero tailpipe emissions.) Bikes and trikes are not only hugely beneficial for improving air quality, but their compact design makes them well suited to navigating narrow lanes and congested roads.

Cargo trike with Zed logo on the side
A ZED cargo trike. Source: LB Waltham Forest.

One of the scheme’s business users, Perky Blenders, values the service because it means there’s “no need for deliveries by car or impromptu trips to waste management. The service is genuinely good and ideal for small growing businesses to expand in an efficient manner.” To facilitate this, ZED have built their own technology platform for setting up logistics with suppliers and delivery partners, and for working out the best delivery routes. Route optimisation uses up-to-date technology based on real-time traffic levels for faster and more efficient deliveries.

Achieving full zero-carbon operations

Aware that e-bikes and e-vans still produce particulates from non-tailpipe emissions (e.g. from the wear of brakes), ZED are taking further measures to achieve zero emission deliveries by using Ecotricity to power their e-fleet and depot. (Ecotricity are an energy company that supply energy solely using wind and solar power.)

ZED also take a load-specific approach, choosing the cleanest option where possible. For example, for lighter loads the preference is to use pedal power via e-assist bikes which produce far fewer particulates, whereas e-vans are for heavier loads that don’t fit on the largest bike. And e-vans still have much less impact than a standard van.

Partnering with the council

In addition to improving the overall air quality for LB Waltham Forest’s residents and lowering the borough’s total carbon emissions, ZED also handles book deliveries for eight council-led libraries.

This involves transporting books between libraries, dropping books off to households and even using their depot as a designated collection point for books to be returned to other London boroughs. As a result, around 1,200 books are received and sorted through the scheme each week.

Incorporated into the wider Enjoy Waltham Forest programme, Jane Sherry, Behaviour Change Project Manager, LB Waltham Forest, who oversees ZED in the council, explains that “when we’re engaging with local businesses, it’s been really good to have something successful to point them to.”

In other words, the scheme is already its own best practice example within the borough to get more local businesses on board with giving up parking spaces and engaging with local cargo deliveries.

Staff pose with cargo bikes
The fleet consists of 2 Iceni trikes, 2 Omnium cargo bikes, 3 Urban Arrow bikes, a Bullitt Alu bike, a Bullitt Convoy bike, and 100% electric branded Nissan e-NV200 vans.

Benefits for all

ZED continues to show its support for the local community in various ways. All staff live locally, which avoids potential emissions from commuter travel, and also increases the team’s appreciation for, and knowledge of, the local area.

ZED also offer local businesses deliveries to and from locations and depots in east and central London, expanding their geographic reach in a low-carbon manner. In FoL’s most recent round of Future London Leaders (FLL 24) Will Bradley’s Proposal for London suggests using cargo bikes to meet last-mile delivery solutions in the City of London. Voted as the ‘Most Feasible’ idea, the proposal also makes a strong business case for cargo bikes: three times the efficiency at just a tenth of the cost of standard van deliveries.

By engaging in meaningful partnerships with local retailers, residents and other members of the community, ZED Waltham Forest have deployed their carbon-friendly, resilient fleet to transform the borough’s logistics and delivery process across multiple scales.

Our Achieving Net Zero case studies showcase inspiring examples of best practice, from low-cost interventions to large-scale infrastructure. We want to raise the profile of schemes and organisations doing a great job of working towards the Net Zero ambition, highlighting what we can learn from them. 

If you’d like to get involved with our Achieving Net Zero programme, get in touch with Anna Odedun, Head of Knowledge.