Green shipping may not be a phrase you've heard lately, but with the holiday season just around the corner and big companies vying for ways increase their eco-friendly image, you'll be hearing about it soon.

The Internet is flooded with options for both consumers and businesses looking to spend money, so retailers that fit within an average budget and give a boost to consciences can easily run away with everyone's business. The tactic that many retailers have used is to start calling their products green, without giving much information as to what that means exactly. But the green companies who really get it aren't just going green. They're bleeding green, and that means rethinking how they do business from the ground up.

The theory behind green shipping is that if you can't shop local you can at least void the impact made by using the far reaches of the Web to bring you a better deal. Shipping has two components that are difficult from the perspective of environmental sustainability: heating, powering and running large storage facilities, and transporting shipments. The problem becomes even worse for manufacturers who have to fabricate and store their products in large quantities.

That's where First Global Express comes in. Building on the "small is the new big" principle that Seth Godin has been getting behind since the early 2000s, FGX simplifies shipping by moving what you want from where it is directly to you. Your shipment is not stored in a massive facility waiting for a certain number of tons of other items to be heading out to major transportation hubs, and it isn't re-routed from hub to hub either. Your shipment goes directly from where it is to where it needs to go -- which flies in the face of traditional shipping's hub-and-spoke system. The nontraditional method works faster than traditional shipping, and releases a fraction of the emissions for a cost that's on par with its competitors -- they'll even show you exactly how much carbon you can save by using their service and what their calculations are based on.

For e-commerce and consumers, there are more and more carbon-offset companies in the market all the time. All are equipped with calculators that allow you to punch in your shipment's weight, starting and ending points, and will give you the amount of money you should purchase in offsets. Many services, such as TerraPass, even have conference, wedding and private-jet specific calculators. The main problem is that these sites exist in a whole other world than e-commerce. Companies have to purchase offsets on behalf of themselves and their customers to tackle carbon neutrality in a meaningful way, because most consumers just won't seek out carbon offsets for every purchase on their own, especially with the health of the global economy in decline.

For retailers, ShipGreen is the next big change on the horizon. ShipGreen is the company that developed FGX's extremely accurate carbon management program, and it just finished the testing phase of an e-commerce application that will let consumers calculate the impacts of their purchase and buy offsets as they complete their online transaction. It will be built into the shopping card of any retailer who wants it, it's accurate, transparent, and it shifts responsibility to consumers so they can choose to do the right thing and feel good about their decision. Maybe most importantly for the Internet, it's also instant and integrated.

Green companies and eco-conscious consumers have been around for a long time now, and maybe with the help of ShipGreen and its competitors consumers can start making the transition from eco-conscious to truly green.

Related stories on MNN:

Green shipping sets sail on the Web
From direct shipments to carbon offsets, the shipping industry is using technology to go green.