Boise Switches to Rail, Cuts CO2 Emissions 60%


by | Sep 4, 2013

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BoisePackaging and paper products manufacturer Boise has cut CO2 emissions by 60 percent by switching from road to rail and packing its products more efficiently in rail containers, says a case study from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

EDF, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has put together a series of case studies on leading companies that have cut CO2 emissions and lowered costs by switching transportation modes and improving logistics practices.

Boise, a $2.6 billion company spread across the US, Canada, Mexico, France and other countries, worked with customers like OfficeMax to regroup shipment sizes and took advantage of proximity to rail, with its carload directive initiative. Until 2011, when it launched the initiative, Boise used to ship full truckloads by road to OfficeMax. But after making the switch and shipping shipping 200 carloads via rail, the company eliminated more than 2,600 tons of CO2 — the equivalent of saving more than 264,000 gallons of fuel.

It also saw more savings and cut more emissions by improving how it packed the cars, the case study says. Boise switched from two- to three-tier pallets, which led to a 14 percent improvement in rail car space utilization. For the third tier, it found that using a half-pallet worked best, which can be used for seasonal or lower demand items that are shipped in smaller quantities. Combined, both the initiatives have led to a total reduction of 2,800 tons of CO2.

EDF also profiled Caterpillar in a case study, focusing on how it cut emissions by reducing the weight of the containers it uses to ship bulky parts and by consolidating inbound shipments. In its Decatur, Ill. facility, Caterpillar assembles heavy-duty mining trucks and it used steel containers to get inbound shipments of supply parts. By switching to lighter weight plastic containers, it has realized fuel savings and side benefits like easier handling and ability to standardize shipment sizes.

In April, BNSF Railway announced its customers’ use of rail for freight shipping prevented more than 30 million metric tons of CO2e from entering the atmosphere in 2012.

Energy services company McKinstry also says that shipping a container on the Cold Train refrigerated express intermodal service from Washington State’s Port of Quincy to Chicago or from Chicago to Quincy reduces the shipment’s carbon footprint by 52 percent compared to a long-haul truck.

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