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Stuck in neutral -and proud of it

The term "sustainability" in the transportation industry has almost reached buzz word status because of its liberal use over the last several years. With intense pressure from organizations such as th...

The term “sustainability” in the transportation industry has almost reached buzz word status because of its liberal use over the last several years. With intense pressure from organizations such as the US Environmental Protection Agency for businesses to literally clean up their acts, sustainability has ceased to be an idealistic way of operating and become the only way to operate. Companies are no longer inclined to simply think favourably on environmentally sound practices, but must act them out in order to survive.

Such was the way Lakeside Logistics, an Oakville, Ont.-based 3PL provider of supply chain and transportation management services, approached the problem of achieving carbon neutral status under its Vision Green umbrella. For the novice, becoming carbon neutral involves balancing one’s carbon emissions through limiting energy use, using renewable energy and offsetting remaining emissions through carbon reducing projects like tree planting.

“This is not an initiative because we’re environmentalists. This is a business decision,” admits Lakeside’s managing director, Jeff Moore. “I really did a lot of thinking about whether this was the right thing for us to do. I knew that in my heart of hearts, for my kids and my grandkids and 100 years down the road, obviously this is the right thing to do, but you also have to look at it from a business side.”

The creation of Lakeside’s in-house greening program in April coincided with the creation of an entirely new position in the company. The director of sustainability would oversee the program’s implementation and further ensure that its initiatives would not only be achieved, but continuously built upon. That position was taken up by Jeff’s wife, Susan Moore, a former stay-at-home Mom with a 10-year history at Proctor & Gamble.

With Susan now heading the company’s “green team,” the first step towards carbon neutrality was receiving an environmental audit from Zerofootprint, a Toronto-based company dedicated to helping businesses reduce their environmental impact through a combination of information, products and services. Zerofootprint began by calculating the carbon dioxide the company produced through a variety of means, including paper use, electricity, employee commuting, travel and office heating. In total, Lakeside was producing about 320 tonnes of CO2 per year -the equivalent of about 64 cars on the road -a full third of which was coming from employee commuting. But since public transit was not an option for many employees, Lakeside realized other methods to reduce emissions would have to be explored.

After much consultation and establishing further partnerships with other businesses and organizations, Lakeside had come up with several means to reduce its carbon footprint.

To begin with, Lakeside would now purchase green, carbon-free, renewable electricity from Bullfrog Power for its corporate office in Oakville, effectively eliminating the company’s electricity carbon footprint. Green electricity comes from clean, renewable sources like wind power and low-impact water power that displace polluting and carbon-intensive sources like coal.

Other changes at Lakeside included investing in hybrid technology for its carrier relations vehicle; instituting an idle free zone at its loading docks to reduce carbon emissions; and re-programming computers with Local Cooling to reduce power usage.

But one of the most drastic changes in the company’s carbon footprint was also one of the easiest to implement: eliminating all bottled water on site. Susan says water had literally been coming in by the pallet-full, amounting to 20,000 plastic bottles per year. To help wean Lakeside off those wasteful bottles, each employee received their own Vision Green refillable water bottle. “Many of (Lakeside’s employees) are saying that they drink more water now because they carry it with them wherever they go,” Susan said, adding that the elimination of bottled water sent a message to both Lakeside employees and its customers that the company was serious about change.

To remove the remaining emissions necessary to attain carbon neutral status, Lakeside turned to carbon offsetting, by using an ISO-certified forest restoration project. By offsetting in this manner, Lakeside ensured that the remaining CO2 it generated would not only be taken out of the atmosphere, but the environment would also be helped by revitalizing degraded ecosystems, improving biodiversity, and fighting climate change. Susan noted that deforestation is responsible for about 20% of carbon dioxide issues in the atmosphere.

“At the end of the day, you look at your carbon footprint and

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