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:

GF-Handbook-CTA

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

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

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.

Freight-share-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

2015: A Year of Business and Policy Action on Climate

Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDFFor most of us, New Year’s marks the time when we set annual resolutions (personal and professional) and get to work on tackling the priorities for the year ahead. In my hometown of Washington, DC a new year also means that Congress comes back into session, lawmakers and speechwriters ready their agendas and proposals, and the president delivers the State of the Union address.

From what we heard last night and in recent announcements, 2015 could be a big year for action on climate – from government and the private sector alike. But big results will take leadership on all fronts.

Leadership from our government…

Addressing climate change is supported by the vast majority of Americans and the Obama administration is taking bold steps to curb the United States’ contribution to climate change. Last night, we saw President Obama tell the nation “no challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change” in his State of the Union address. The President also strongly reiterated his commitment to work to ensure “American leadership drives international action” on climate change.

It is clear that climate change is an urgent national priority. Fortunately, the Administration is carrying out its promises under the Climate Action Plan, and steps taken and soon-to-be-taken have helped put us on the right path. From the proposal to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, expected fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, to last week’s announcement of steps to address methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, we have seen a lot of progress to address climate change since the last State of the Union. Further, the November announcement of a joint China-U.S. agreement to address climate change on a global scale underscores how crucial U.S. leadership is at this juncture in achieving a binding worldwide climate deal. Much more work remains and leadership at all levels will be necessary to meet our climate goals. Read more

The Green Freight Journey: Create Momentum

The Green Freight Journey is a five-step framework for freight optimization projects. In this blog series, EDF is taking a brief look at each step of the Journey.

Once you have established a Green Freight goal and defined metrics for tracking your progress, it’s time to start putting the wheels in motion. Below are some tips for taking the next step, creating momentum, in your Green Freight Journey:

  • Choose a pilot project – Select pilot projects that can be scaled up and replicated elsewhere in the organization, if successful. See our Green Freight case studies for examples of replicable pilot projects.
  • Focus on what you control – Choose a pilot project where you have direct control over the outcome. Examples here are increasing load factors or moving to intermodal from truckload. Projects that rely on the actions of suppliers, such as alternative fuel use by your contract carrier, are more difficult to execute.
  • Track results – Be sure to capture good data and use the metrics you created in step one. The data you produce will be a powerful tool in communicating the results of your pilot to employees, customers, and key stakeholders. The data will also help you identify new opportunities.

Below is an example from our Green Freight Handbook, which can help you determine which pilot project would be most impactful for your organization.

Green Freight Diagnostic

To learn more about the Green Freight Journey, watch our recorded webinar, where we go into more detail about the Green Freight Journey framework, review real-world case examples and highlight tools EDF is making available to help companies progress on their journey.

Steps on the Green Freight Journey:

The Green Freight Journey: Take Your First Step

The Green Freight Journey is a five-step framework for freight optimization projects. In this blog series, EDF is taking a brief look at each of the steps along the Journey.

The first step, Getting Started, is about deciding where you want to go. To do this, companies:

  • Gather internal stakeholders  such as supply chain or transportation executives, sustainability officers or EHS professionals, and an executive sponsor.
  • Define their green freight objective  such as reducing climate warming emissions or cutting fossil fuel consumption.
  • Determine key metrics – by reaching each agreement on how to objectively measure progress. A metrics-driven approach helps to keep you focused on the actions that will deliver the biggest results for the best returns.

When determining your metrics, consider these examples from the EDF Green Freight Handbook:

Metrics

To learn more about the Green Freight Journey, watch our recorded webinar, where we go into more detail about the Green Freight Journey framework, review real-world case examples and highlight tools EDF is making available to help companies progress on their journey.

Steps on the Green Freight Journey:

EDF Climate Corps Continues to Drive Results for Private Equity Firms

The results are in. As my colleague Victoria Mills wrote recently, this year’s cohort of EDF Climate Corps fellows found $130 million in potential energy savings across 102 organizations.

Among the engagements, 12 fellows worked with private equity firms and portfolio companies on a diverse set of projects. Each engagement offers its own story, but we’d like to showcase a few examples demonstrating the value the Climate Corps program can bring to firms of all sizes and at all stages of understanding of energy management.

Energy audits and retrofits for a major manufacturing company

amiHellman & Friedman’s portfolio company Associated Materials, which specializes in exterior building products, hosted two fellows this past summer, its first year with the EDF Climate Corps program.

Fellow Karunakaren Muthumani Hariharan audited two of the firm’s 11 manufacturing locations to identify opportunities for energy efficiency, including lighting upgrades, process equipment upgrades and manufacturing process modifications. He suggested improvements with potential net present value savings greater than $1.4 million and reductions of greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 2,700 tons per year. Hariharan also proposed funding the energy efficiency projects through a new Green Energy and Sustainability Fund.

Krishna Chaitanya Vinnakota analyzed Associated Materials’ total expenditure on energy, over $15 million, and focused on energy saving opportunities in the company’s supply centers, including an approach that could result in energy expenditure savings of 20 to 50 percent in some supply centers. He also suggested strip doors as a simple but effective way of conserving energy during winter. It’s a project that could save the approximately half a million dollars per year if rolled out across the company’s 125 supply centers and 11 manufacturing plants. Read more

It Can(‘t) Be Done

I recently read the inspiring story of how Farmers Electric Cooperative, one of the smallest utilities in the country, overcame some formidable financing challenges to develop the biggest commercial solar project in Iowa.

Rock-uphillThe example called to mind a comment made by Lisa Jackson, Vice President of Environmental Initiatives at Apple and former Administrator of the U.S. EPA, during the closing plenary of GreenBiz’s VERGE conference earlier this fall. She told the audience that, at Apple, the best way to get something done was to say “it can’t be done.”

This idea, of conquering seemingly impossible obstacles, is one I’ve seen reflected in a number of new advances in corporate sustainability, including many discussed at the conference and others from our own work. Each demonstrates how entrepreneurs (and intrapreneurs) are harnessing major environmental and social challenges to create real solutions: Read more