Companies often examine shipping practices when looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. A company called First Global Xpress believes they have a model that helps businesses ship products and documents with a little less guilt.

According to New York-based FGX, the large big-name shippers rely on a hub-and-spoke system where packages are sent for processing at a central hub before heading to their final destination. The number of stops between start and finish varies.

By contrast, packages shipped through FGX are sent directly to the airport where they hitch a ride on a flight with a partner commercial airline already headed to the final destination. A courier company collects and delivers the packages, all of which, in some cases, can cut out thousands of miles from the total trip.

Since FGX subcontracts with airlines and couriers, it avoids infrastructure costs, such as vehicle and aircraft maintenance, landing rights and fuel, all of which are savings passed along to its customers. "We're paying for what we use," said Justin Brown, FGX CEO.

He estimates FGX can save customers 20 percent in costs, 30 percent in emissions, and up to 24 hours in shipping time for international destinations.

The company now offers a calculator that can tell clients the amount of emissions they will avoid, on average, by shipping with FGX. But coming up in the next 90 days or so is a second version that can calculate the amount of emissions avoided compared to specific competitor carriers.

There's more on the horizon: Internally, the company plans to cut its own carbon footprint by 66 percent by the end of 2009. Already, it upped its in-house recycling policy, bought wind energy to power its operations, created a reporting system to quantify the reduction for its clients' shipping programs and switched to energy efficient equipment when possible.

FGX hopes to make all vehicles associated with its business run on alternative fuels by the end of 2009, depending on the available infrastructure. It will also scale up its presence across the eastern seaboard over the next five years.

FGX always relied on word-of-mouth to generate customers but now it does plan to do some outreach. "We're going to educate the market at large that this product does exist," Brown said. "The hub-and-spoke model is not the best option in our estimation."