Green Freight Math: How to Calculate Emissions for a Truck Move

When setting and monitoring several of the key environmental performance metrics for freight, you’ll need to know how to calculate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This may sound complicated, but it’s actually quite simple.

Fuels contain carbon, which is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide when burned. If you know how much fuel you’ve used, you can determine most of your current GHG emissions.

You can derive fuel volume by looking at how much freight you transport, the distance that freight travels, and the specific mode of transport used. Each mode will have its own emissions factor, since some modes are more efficient than others.

Here's a simple formula for calculating greenhouse gas emissions from a truck move:

GHG Calculation

The distance and weight and/or volume information needed to calculate greenhouse gas emissions is most likely already captured in your transportation management software. Information on mode-specific emissions factors are generated by several sources, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A list of emission factors is included on page 10 and 11 of EDF’s Green Freight Handbook.

Example: greenhouse gas calculation for a truck move

Using the formula from above, I'll walk through a simple emissions calculation example for a truck that travels 1,000 miles with 20 short tons of cargo (a short ton is 2,000 lbs).

  • Step 1: Determine the total amount of ton-miles. Multiply 1,000 miles times 20 tons, which gives us a total of 20,000 ton-miles.
  • Step 2: Get the weight-based truck emissions factor for a freight truck. The average freight truck in the U.S. emits 161.8 grams of CO2 per ton-mile.
  • Step 3: Multiply this emissions factor with the total ton-miles {161.8 X 20,000), which gives us a total of 3,236,000 grams of CO2.
  • Step 4: Convert the total grams into metric tons. Metric tons are the standard measurement unit for corporate emissions of greenhouse gases. There are 1,000,000 grams in a metric ton. To convert our answer from step three we divide it by 1,000,000. This gives us 3.24 metric tons of CO2 for this one move.

Even  if don’t have access to the tonnage data, you can still achieve a meaningful calculation based on mileage alone.  You’ll find an example of mileage-based calculation on page 13 of the Green Freight Handbook.

Once you have the formula, this process of greenhouse gas calculations can be easily automated using data from your transportation management software.  The key is to get started.

To learn more about getting started with green freight projects, download the Green Freight Handbook from the link below:


Consumer Goods Companies: Stand Up For Strong Truck Standards

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(Credit: Union of Concerned Scientists)

Three billion gallons of fuel:  That is what consumer goods companies stand to save annually from strong heavy truck fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

$11.5 million dollars: That is how much a large consumer goods company would save annually in 2030 from strong truck efficiency standards.

Consumer goods companies should be at the front of the pack calling for new, protective, and affordable fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for our largest trucks — which will not only protect our air quality and the climate overall, but save companies costs involved in moving freight.

While they seldom directly own large delivery fleets, consumer goods companies are the largest single consumer of freight moves: accounting for nearly 30% of moves, according to an EDF-commissioned analysis from ICF International.

Most large consumer goods companies have robust environmental sustainability platforms, which increasingly include supply chain impacts. This makes sense, as nearly 90% of consumer goods impacts occur in companies' supply chains.

PrintProduct distribution is a meaningful contributor to those impacts: around five percent for a pair of Timberland shoes, 8 percent for a six pack of Fat Tire craft beer, and 10 percent for an iPad. Freight moved via truck accounts for the majority of logistics-related emissions. By increasing the efficiency of heavy trucks by 46% compared to 2010, consumer goods companies will meaningfully reduce supply chain climate emissions.

Increases to fuel efficiency are good for the bottom line too. Fuel has long been a top cost for trucking, accounting for nearly 40% of per-mile cost. More efficient trucks lower lifecycle costs significantly, and reduce per-mile freight costs by 21 cents a mile, as an analysis by EDF and Ceres demonstrated last year.

President Obama pledged last year to issue new truck efficiency standards this spring. As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration ready the proposed standards for release, consumer goods companies should be leading the call for the administration to set bold standards. These companies stand to benefit the most from lower supply chain emissions and reduce shipping costs. As the largest single consumer of trucking services, calling for protective standards is the responsible course of action.

EPA Relaunches SaferChoice Product Labeling Program

by Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., Health Scientist

SaferChoiceToday, the EPA Design for the Environment Program (DfE) Safer Choice program (formerly, the safer product labeling program) unveiled its newly redesigned family of three product labels. The voluntary Safer Choice program seeks to recognize and bring consumer awareness to those products whose chemical ingredients represent the safest among those within a particular chemical functional class (e.g., solvents).

Today’s milestone is the result of a public process led by the EPA DfE program to solicit feedback on a new label that better communicates the goals and purpose of the program. After more than a year, and 1,700 comments and six consumer focus groups later, the new labels will be arriving soon to a store shelf near you.  Read more

Stick It To Carbon, Not The Man.

Editor’s note: The following is excerpted from Climate Shock (2015) by Gernot Wagner, Lead Senior Economist, Environmental Defense Fund, and Martin L. Weitzman, Professor of Economics, Harvard University. Published here with permission from Princeton University Press.

Gernot & MartinTwo quick questions:

Do you think climate change is an urgent problem?

Do you think getting the world off fossil fuels is difficult?

If you answered “Yes” to both of these questions, welcome. You’ll nod along, occasionally even cheer, while reading on. You’ll feel reaffirmed.

You are also in the minority. The vast majority of people answer “Yes” to one or the other question, but not both.

If you answered “Yes” only to the first question, you probably think of yourself as a committed environmentalist. You may think climate change is the issue facing society. It’s bad. It’s worse than most of us think. It’s hitting home already, and it will strike us with full force. We should be pulling out all the stops: solar panels, bike lanes, the whole lot.

You’re right, in part. Climate change is an urgent problem. But you’re fooling yourself if you think getting off fossil fuels will be simple. It will be one of the most difficult challenges modern civilization has ever faced, and it will require the most sustained, well-managed, globally cooperative effort the human species has ever mounted.

If you answered “Yes” only to the second question, chances are you don’t think climate change is the defining problem of our generation. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a “skeptic” or “denier” of the underlying scientific evidence; you may still think global warming is worthy of our attention. But realism dictates that we can’t stop life as we know it to mitigate a problem that’ll take decades or centuries to show its full force. Look, some people are suffering right now because of lack of energy. And whatever the United States, Europe or other high emitters do to rein in their energy consumption will be nullified by China, India and the rest catching up with the rich world’s standard of living. You know there are trade-offs. You also know that solar panels and bike lanes alone won’t do.

You, too, are right, but none of that makes climate change any less of a problem. The long lead time for solutions and the complex global web of players are precisely why we must act decisively, today. Read more

The Top Three Freight Sustainability Metrics

Do your freight transportation metrics include measures for sustainability?

With freight accounting for 16 percent of corporate greenhouse gas emissions, establishing green freight practices is becoming a greater priority for large shippers.

GF-Handbook-CoverTo learn more about how to establish freight sustainability metrics, check out Chapter 2 in EDF’s Green Freight Handbook – a practical guide to the strategies companies are using to reduce their freight operations’ impact on overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Establishing baseline metrics is the logical starting point for your green freight efforts. Freight sustainability metrics provide clarity, and keep transportation teams focused on the goal of achieving emissions reductions that are measurable, and therefore meaningful.

Your baseline will include both broad corporate freight sustainability metrics and more specific freight efficiency metrics.

At a corporate level, the three most popular metrics to gauge freight sustainability , are:

  1. Emissions per ton-mile – the average emissions associated with moving one ton of freight for one mile.
  2. Absolute freight emissions – the total greenhouse gas emissions generated by transporting freight.
  3. Total fuel consumption – the fuel used by direct freight operations and by third-partly logistics companies (3pl) and carriers in the transport of products.

Our Green Freight Handbook offers advice and formulas to determine all these numbers.

At a specific level, other freight efficiency metrics –such as average emissions per shipment, percentage of ton-miles by mode, and average miles traveled per shipment – link to specific strategies that, taken together, will ultimately drive the results you see in your corporate freight sustainability metrics.

In Emissions Reduction, Activity Doesn’t Always Equal Achievement

Real progress in freight sustainability can only be measured in numbers. That’s why starting with a baseline is so crucial. If your strategies don’t shift the numbers in a positive direction, they are clearly not the right strategies.

Read more

Clean Energy is Just Smart Business for Leaders like Apple, Google

by Peter Sopher, Policy Analyst, Clean Energy

Apple and Google have changed our lives forever, both because of their technological innovations and sheer size as global corporations. Now, they’re aiming to reshape the energy landscape.

apple-google againThis month, Apple announced plans to spend nearly $2 billion on European data centers set to run entirely on renewable energy and invested $848 million to secure power from 130MW of First Solar’s California Flats Solar Project under a 25-year power purchase agreement. Google also agreed to replace 370 wind turbines installed in the 1980s with 24 new, more efficient and bird-friendly turbines at the Altamont Pass in the San Francisco Bay Area. Moreover, there has been recent speculation Apple may be working on an electric vehicle to challenge Tesla’s dominance in that market.

These developments are impressive on their own, but they are also part of a new trend among major corporations – whose primary focus is not energy generation – proactively pursuing clean energy projects.  So, why are they doing this?

For corporations whose businesses do not rely on fossil fuels, aligning themselves with clean power is proving a prudent move both financially and for public relations. Read more

Consumers Get Their Say in Supporting Sustainable Products

Like teenagers, all ground-breaking products or ideas go through an awkward adolescent phase.  And, like teenagers, the only way products or ideas can move past the clumsy stage and blossom into a sought after, form-meets-function icon is through experience.  Meaning, real consumers have to put them through their paces: does this work? How could it work better? Revise, improve, re-test, repeat… that’s how you make something truly effective; truly great.

Sustainability-Shop bug_115x115

All this is by way of acknowledging a group of sustainable-minded collaborators on the coming-out party this week for Walmart’s “Sustainability Leaders Shop”, an online shopping portal that “will allow customers to easily identify brands that are leading sustainability within a special category”.  It is, literally, the very first time a quantifiable, science-based index of various products’ sustainable provenance is being placed in the hands of consumers at the scale that only Walmart can provide. Read more

Are Energy Managers Making Progress? Introducing a Tool to Help

Energy management can be complicated, and the projects that organizations must tackle run the gamut: from small-scale lighting and HVAC upgrades to whole building retrofits, from baselining energy consumption to data analysis of enterprise-wide energy management systems and from volunteer employee engagement programs to executive-level goal setting.

So if you’re an energy manager, there’s no doubt that you are busy! But, when you’re deep in the middle of so many “weeds,” what’s often not so clear is this: Is your organization making real progress to improve the way it thinks about and manages energy? What does real progress look like?


The Virtuous Cycle of Strategic Energy Management

Several years ago, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and partner MIT started to address these questions through the  development of a framework for strategic energy management that showed the dependency of truly successful programs on a holistic and multi-faceted management approach—one where five focus areas work in concert to create a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement:

This year, we’re taking this work a step further by addressing another question that organizations frequently have: where are we on the journey?

To that end, EDF Climate Corps is proud to announce the launch of a simple and free benchmarking survey called the Smart Energy Diagnostic, designed to help energy managers assess the overall health and progress of their energy management programs. Read more

To Drive Down CO2 Emissions, Focus on Freight

Did you know that, as the energy demand for passenger vehicles declines steadily over the next 25 years, the fuel demand for commercial transportation is predicted to increase 40 percent over current levels?

That’s a difference of well over 10 million oil-equivalent barrels per day.

Most of that demand will come from heavy-duty trucks, which account for 57 percent of all logistics-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 16 percent of total corporate GHGs.


As a society, our appetite for goods of all kinds—food, electronics, apparel, housewares – is growing. As the population grows, demand grows, and so does the number of trucks on the road. Read more

4 Reasons a National Methane Policy Will Be Good for Business

After months of anticipation, the Obama Administration this month released its new methane emissions strategy – a plan that opens up new opportunities for industry writ large, and especially for operators that want to cut waste and get ahead.

methaneleaks2_378x235The centerpiece of the strategy are imminent rules that will help us meet a new national goal to reduce harmful methane pollution from oil and natural gas operations by 45 percent by 2025.

But the rules also bring direct industry benefits. Here are four reasons the new methane emissions strategy is a boon, rather than bane, for America’s $1.2-trillion oil and gas sector:

1. It tackles $1.8 billion in annual waste and adds market certainty

Leaky infrastructure and unnecessary venting across the oil and gas value chain cost an estimated $1.8 billion in wasted product and lost revenue annually.

The new rules require companies to include up-to-date controls as they build out new and modified infrastructure, keeping gas in the pipeline while making new facilities more efficient.

Research shows such investments would cost industry no more than a penny on average per one thousand cubic feet of natural gas produced, and even save money in some cases.

The new rules also help bring market certainty.

As Goldman Sachs has pointed out, methane regulations are needed to address investor concerns, and unlock job creation and the most positive future for this American fuel.

Yes, as popular as the trend may be with consumers, today’s low oil prices cause economic pain for producers, and some operators are cutting back on costs.

But executives with vision beyond the next quarter can see that small, short-term investments in emission reduction technologies and practices are part of the longer game. Read more