The Governor’s Office of Energy Development and other groups came together Monday at the Utah State Capitol to voice support for the state moving forward with development of cleaner forms of energy and celebrate Utah’s 11th Alternative Fuels Awareness month.
“It is important to diversify transportation fuels, build transportation infrastructure and a fleet of alternative fuel vehicles in order to reduce air pollution and improve air quality, and to save energy and preserve national resources,” reads Gov. Gary Herbert’s declaration.
Dr. Laura Nelson, executive director of the Office of Energy Development, presented a report examining how alternative fuel vehicles can “strengthen our state’s energy resilience and emergency planning through greater collaboration, education and adoption of alternative fuels.”
The proposals and advancements announced Monday are part of Utah’s Energy Action Plan to 2020, an effort by the governor’s office that, in part, aims to address the state’s poor air quality and inversion along the Wasatch Front.
In Utah and Salt Lake counties, air quality in the winter can reach “unhealthy” and “hazardous” levels on the Air Quality Index.
Several “green” vehicles were parked outside the capitol steps and showcased for the public, including a zero-emission natural gas-powered Ford Explorer designed by ReFuel Energy Partners, a New Flyer Industries all-electric transit bus, a duel-fuel service truck and a natural gas-powered Ace Recycling and Disposal dump truck.
In 2016, Utah ranked as the 8th highest state in electric car sales, with almost 1% of new car sales being of electric vehicles, according to a “Clean Energy Momentum” report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Utah Transit Authority executive director Carolyn Gonot said that the public transit company currently operates 54 electric-hybrid buses, three fully electric buses and 47 powered by natural gas. She added that UTA has reduced emissions from its bus fleet by more than three quarters since 2008.
“As UTA continues to incorporate clean technologies and people choose to ride transit, the air pollution savings per trip will only continue to increase,” Gonot said.
The Utah Clean Cities Coalition, a group that works with local leaders to reduce the use of petroleum in the transportation sector, announced that it would advance two United States Department of Energy clean vehicle projects, one that would transition Zion National Park shuttles from propane-powered to electricity-powered and another that would support electric vehicle markets throughout the rural Intermountain West.
The two initiatives are projected to generate over $3 million in revenue for the state over the next three years, according to a Utah Clean Cities Coalition press release.
Another way the state can achieve greater air quality is through providing consumers with sustainable fuel options. Nelson from the Office of Energy Development said that said there are currently 941 gas stations in the state that offer alternative fuels or electric charging stations.
Dr. David M. Christensen, executive director of Utah State University’s Sustainable Electrified Transportation Center, which partners with out-of-state colleges to research sustainable vehicle options, spoke about the center’s growth since its formation in 2016.
“What began as five university partners and a dozen faculty members (has expanded) to 13 core and affiliated university members with more than 40 researchers with globally recognized expertise across sectors in the electric transportation ecosystem,” Christensen said.
The accumulation of these initiatives will contribute to Utah’s “economic and environmental success,” Herbert said in his declaration.
Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 801-344-2599.
By Lisa Riley Roche, KSL | Posted – Nov 5th, 2019 @ 7:12am
By Lisa Riley Roche@DNewsPolitics, Deseret News | Posted – Nov 4, 2019, 5:15pm MST
SALT LAKE CITY — Officials marked the 11th anniversary of November being declared Alternative Fuel Awareness Month in Utah by highlighting federally funded projects, including for an electric vehicle corridor across the Intermountain West.“As you can tell, we’ve done a lot. And there continues to be more we can do,” Laura Nelson, Gov. Gary Herbert’s energy adviser, said during a news conference in the Capitol rotunda Monday after reading this year’s declaration from the governor.The Intermountain West Electric Vehicle Corridor, which goes through Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming, was created through the signing of memorandum of understanding by the governors of those states in 2017.
Herbert described the corridor in his declaration as providing diverse fueling options along the “I-15 corridor and other designated roadways, thus connecting Utah’s cities, towns, national parks, monuments, recreation areas and scenic byways with neighboring states and regional network.”
The governor said in a statement that “alternative fuels continue to play a critical role in Utah’s economic and environmental success” and praised efforts “to provide greater transportation options to Utahns while also achieving greater air quality, economic opportunity and energy security.”
There are 941 stations in Utah that offer alternative fuels, including compressed, liquified and renewable natural gas and electric vehicle charging, many located along I-15, I-80 and I-70, according to the Governor’s Office of Energy Development.
Tammie Bostick, executive director of the nonprofit Utah Clean Cities, initially said some $260,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy will go toward new electric vehicle charging stations along the corridor over three years, but later updated that number to $670,000.
She said the money is part of $1.45 million in federal grants that will bring in about $3 million to the state when matched with private and public funds and in-kind contributions.
The federal funds will also help pay for a pair of electric shuttles in Zion National Park that will travel through the steep and narrow Mount Carmel tunnel, Bostick said, expected to cost about $300,000 each. She said ideally they will be on the road within a year.
“All the national parks across the nation are watching us roll this project out,” Bostick said. “It’s very exciting,”
Also unveiled Monday was a report on how alternative fuel vehicles strengthen state planning for emergencies, from the governor’s energy development office, Utah Clean Cities and the National Association of State Energy Officials.
“We are proud to become one of the first models nationally for strategic energy emergency planning across the transportation sector by collaborating on this critical report and other educational and informative tools,” Nelson said, including tracking the availability of alternative fuels.
Currently there are 46 vehicle fleets that use alternative fuels in Utah, with more than 6,400 cars and trucks that operate on natural gas, propane, biodiesel, ethanol, electricity or hybrid fuels, the governor’s energy development office said.
Bostick called the report “a prime example of the Utah way of working together to address complex problems such as emergency response during severe weather events and other climate-driven episodes like fires, floods, drought and seismic activity.”
The Utah Transit Authority was acknowledged for operating alternative-fuel buses, including three that are solely electric and 54 that are electric hybrids, along with municipalities and private companies that are turning to alternative fuels.
At the base of the Capitol steps, several examples of alternative-fuel vehicles were on display including an electric UTA bus, a duel-fuel compressed natural gas service truck from Lancer Auto Group and three different models of Tesla cars.
SALT LAKE CITY—Utah is famous for its inversions and with winter fast approaching the push is on to go “idle free.”
Last week, the Lt. Governor, representatives from Utah Clean Cities, the legislature and others came together to kick off the 12th Annual Governor’s Declaration for Idle Free in Utah September 2019 and the 2019-2020 winter season.
“As I talk to people from around our state, one of the most frequently discussed issues of concern I hear about is our air quality,” said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. “These individuals want to help but often feel overwhelmed, or are simply unaware of what they can do. Being idle-free is an easy and effective way we can all help to clean up our air. I am grateful for the strides made by the Idle Free campaign and for their continued efforts to empower everyone to do their part for a healthier environment.”
The grass roots program started when a school classroom was watching a bus idling outside, said Executive Director of Utah Clean Cities Tammie Bostick. “They started a campaign to work with fleets and get the dirty diesels off the road. Bus drivers are trained now not to idle anywhere. That’s a huge win for the air shed.”
Pollution levels are four times higher at school drop offs and pick ups, she said. “Imagine a child in their school parking lot waiting for a bus or to be picked up. Dozens and dozens of vehicles are running their engines creating what we call a hotspot,” said Bostick. “These children are waiting in this emission-filled air and their developing lungs are struggling to breathe. Fact is, idling en mass at the school drop off and pick up zones creates toxic air hotspots just like the one described, on green air days and even worse, it’s multiplied exponentially in the poor air quality days.”
Vehicle exhaust makes up about half of the air pollution in Utah and the particulate matter emitted by idling can cause serious health problems.
Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, has advocated for clean transportation for a long time in the legislature and serves on the Utah Clean Cities Board of Directors. “Speaking from a personal standpoint, the Anti-Idling Campaign has directed me to change my habits as I’ve come to understand the harmful effects of transportation pollution,” he said. “I just never idle, not at the bank and not at the fast-food drive-up. It’s just a good practice and I’m hoping that more Utahns will get in the swing of things. We really can make a difference together.”
“We at Utah Clean Cities have had a long-term relationship with Davis County over the years,” said Bostick. “The commitment to have Idle Free school zones and businesses has been ongoing and we have seen progress in our educational outreach. Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free really is an awareness campaign for everyone who cares about clean air and a common sense habit that we are asking citizens to commit to.”
The Idle Free Education program has grown over the past 12 years. “We’ve seen a change but there’s work to do,” she said. “Just like we are not allowed to throw out trash wherever we stop, we shouldn’t be allowed to pollute the air without a second thought. For every 10 minutes your engine is off, you’ll prevent one pound of carbon dioxide from being released. It all adds up. Children have the right we all have the right, to have clean air to breathe. It’s not really a personal choice when it affects so many.”
http://utahcleancities.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Capture-3.png400602Emily Pasketthttp://utahcleancities.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/UCC_logo_web.pngEmily Paskett2019-09-30 22:09:542019-09-30 22:09:54Utahns encouraged to be idle free
For the past 12 years, officials in Utah have dubbed September the start of idle free season, an annual reminder for residents to turn off their cars. On Monday, the tradition continued as Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, along with other state and local leaders and the non-profit Utah Clean Cities, made this year’s announcement at a press conference at the Capitol.
“It’s so important that we recognize that this is not a partisan issue, that this is a health issue, it’s an economic issue,” Cox said. “This is good for everyone. Whatever it is you believe in, this should be part of that.”
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox on Monday announced the official start of the idle-free season. He says air quality is one of the issues he hears about most.
CREDIT JON REED / KUER
Utah Clean Cities helped launch the campaign after students and their parents raised concerns about cars huddled around drop-off and pick-up zones at elementary schools. Since then it’s gone nationwide. States like California, New York, and Texas have all passed anti-idling laws.
It’s a particular concern in Utah, which was ranked second to last in the nation for urban air quality, according to a U.S. News and World Report list published earlier this summer. But how big of an impact the campaign is making in reducing emissions remains unclear. Salt Lake City Sustainability Deputy Director Debbie Lyons says one reason for that is because the effects of idling are hard to single out.
“When we’re dealing with air quality issues, it’s a very complex situation,” Lyons said. “There’s a lot of chemistry that goes on and there are a lot of sources that we look at. And so to pinpoint one action from one source is really hard.”
Officials say they focus on idling because of how easy it is for people to stop. It’s something everyone can do.
Still, to further persuade people, there are laws in place. Idling is illegal in 10 Utah cities. The details vary, but most ban drivers from running their engines for more than one to two minutes and allow at least one warning before any punishment is doled out. There are also numerous exemptions in place. Police are free to idle, for example, as is anyone waiting in a car in extreme heat or cold.
Park City passed the first anti-idling ordinance in the state, with Salt Lake City following behind in 2011. As the rule stands now, drivers get three warnings before they’re given a citation, which is similar to a parking ticket and enforced by parking compliance officers.
Since the ordinance was enacted, nine citations have been issued, along with 74 warnings.
Officials say the tickets aren’t the point, but rather the efforts are geared towards awareness.
“This is not meant to be punitive,” said State Rep. Suzanne Harrison (D-Draper), who co-chairs the bi-partisan Clean Air Caucus. “It really needs to be something that everyone is getting educated about [with respect to] their own contribution to air pollution.“
Lyons is hopeful the outreach is working. She says that in her own experience, the efforts have at least made people more aware of their driving habits, even if it’s not totally clear what the low number of citations and warnings says about the extent of idling overall. Whether that means drivers aren’t idling very much or they simply aren’t getting caught, Lyons thinks it’s a good sign.
“It takes a lot to get that citation, so to me it looks like it’s willful action,” she said, especially since most warnings were for first-time offenders.
Lyons says that with environmental issues, often the biggest challenge is finding ways to get people to change their behaviors and, frankly, they don’t have proof that is happening. She says that a lot more research would be needed to see if and how the campaign has influenced people.
One thing she has seen is that if you can make a personal connection to the issue, like improving air quality at your kids’ school, chances are better it will move the needle.
By Kim Bojorquez, KSL | Posted – Sep 17th, 2019 @ 7:01am
SALT LAKE CITY — It took a group of fifth graders in Utah expressing their concerns to school administrators about the fumes they were breathing from bus fleets to help spark Utah’s idle-free movement.
Since then, the movement has grown into an avid advocacy program and a campaign called “Idle Free Utah,” said Tammie Bostick, Utah Clean Cities Coalition executive director, at the 12th annual Governor Declaration for Idle Free in Utah at the state Capitol Monday.
The campaign eventually drew the support of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and this September marks the 12th anniversary of his idle-free declaration, which has been signed by 72 Utah mayors. During Monday’s declaration, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, in Herbert’s absence, declared the month and the 2019-20 winter season as idle-free.
Additionally, 10 Utah cities have idle-free ordinances or resolutions in place, and four school districts including Salt Lake City, Park City, Canyons and Granite, have committed to idle-free campuses.
Whether people are at school waiting to pick up their children or sitting at a drive-thru line, Bostick said drivers should be cognizant of idling their vehicles.
“We all know that idling emits dangerous particulate matter. And they are particularly of concern to us at our schools,” Bostick said.
Bostick said half of Utah’s emissions come from vehicles, and half of those come from fleet vehicles. She said her organization works to educate the community about the economic and environmental benefits of using clean fuels and vehicles.
Draper resident Erika Doty first became concerned with air quality when her children’s asthma symptoms worsened during the winter months.
“As a mom, I was curious and dove into the research and started to learn about emissions and what was in our air,” she said.
Doty said her research and advocacy led to organizing an idle-free week at her child’s elementary school, which caught the attention of Draper City Council members. After engaging with her community and educating the city’s local leaders, Draper became the most recent city to pass an idle-free resolution this summer.
“Once folks are educated and they understand the issue and the data that’s behind it, they support it,” Doty said.
Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, said everyone can do their part to “clean up the air and be idle free,” and little changes like turning a car off can lead to making a big difference.
“It is a threat to our health, our economy and the kind of future that we want here in Utah,” she said.
Harrison, who is a practicing anesthesiologist, said air pollution increases a person’s risk of lung and heart disease, cancer, strokes, autism and pregnancy complications like preterm births.
The Utah Senate voted 15-11 to approve HB148 allowing cities to create anti-idling ordinances with only one required warning instead of three under current state law.
“Our air pollution hurts my patients, it hurts our families and it significantly impacts our kids, whose bodies and lungs are still developing,” Harrison said.
Harrison said people like Doty “illustrate the fact that citizens can make a difference in their community.”
“They saw a need, they got involved, they researched, they organized, they rallied, they had an impact in our community and kudos to them,” she said.
Schools, particularly pick-up and drop-off areas, are “hot pockets” for air pollution. Children are especially vulnerable to bad air quality as they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults, she said.
Family medicine and sports medicine physician Liz Joy, of Intermountain Healthcare, said her interest in air quality stems from her move to Utah from Minnesota and learning about Utah’s winter inversions. As a promoter of outdoor physical activity, she focused her efforts on air quality and health.
“We know that our air quality is getting better here in Utah, but we have a ways to go,” Joy said. “We have to make sure that people are informed so they can act to protect the health of themselves and their loved ones.”
Joy, who is part of a team that educates health providers and patients about air quality and health, said tailpipe emissions contribute “significantly” to poor air quality.
For the past 10 to 20 years, Cox said it’s been interesting to watch the debate on how to keep Utah’s air clean.
“It’s so important that we recognize that this is not a partisan issue. This is a health issue,” he said. “This is good for everyone.”
Cox said he is grateful for children who are helping to change their parents’ habits.
“When kids are telling their parents to stop idling, parents start to listen, and those bad habits go away,” he said.
http://utahcleancities.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Capture-2.png463674Emily Pasketthttp://utahcleancities.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/UCC_logo_web.pngEmily Paskett2019-09-30 21:56:172019-09-30 21:56:17'Turn your key, be idle free,' Utah leaders say in kicking off idle-free season
A bipartisan pair of Utah lawmakers on Wednesday decried a Trump administration proposal to weaken the nation’s car-emissions standards, a change the two said their inversion-plagued state can ill afford.
Utah Reps. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, and Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, called on the state’s congressional leaders — specifically Sen. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams — to oppose rolling back the pollution rules and to fight for polices that will enhance air quality.
“I have had patients who have beaten radiation and chemotherapy and even beaten cancer, but they can’t beat our air pollution,” Harrison, a physician, said during the Capitol news conference.
Earlier this year, the American Lung Association ranked Salt Lake City the nation’s 14th most polluted city for ozone; Harrison said the state’s poor air quality has forced some of her patients to stay indoors and others to leave Utah altogether.
Trump’s move to relax the Obama-era fuel efficiency standards would threaten the progress Utah has made on tailpipe emissions and potentially hinder economic development related to clean-car technology, said Harrison and Handy, co-chairs of the Clean Air Caucus.
“We want cleaner cars. We want alternative vehicles. … We need to be driving less,” Handy said. “And we all need to be smarter about the technologies that we use to keep our air clean.”
Ben Abbott, an assistant professor of ecosystem ecology at Brigham Young University, said a recent study showed that air pollution kills more people than smoking. And while people pay special attention to “sensitive groups” particularly impacted by poor quality, everyone is affected at some level, he said.
“Any exposure to air pollution degrades our health,” he warned.
The risks associated with bad air range from the obvious — breathing problems — to nervous and reproductive system issues and depression, Abbott said.
Vehicle manufactures have listened to these air quality concerns and shown a commitment to reducing emissions in accordance with the Obama administration’s standards, said Tammie Bostick, executive director of the Utah Clean Cities Coalition.
“To propose a rollback of emissions standards is simply unthinkable and hopefully impossible at this point,” Bostick said.
The existing fuel efficiency standards will save the average Utah household $3,050 in gas costs by 2030, money that would be plowed back into the local economy to create an estimated 4,700 new jobs, the Union of Concerned Scientists has predicted.
In response to the morning news conference, Romney’s office sent a statement.
“I support greater efficiency standards in cars, trucks, and factories to reduce energy consumption and pollution,” the senator said in the statement. “I support the utilization of all our energy resources including gas, coal, wind, nuclear, geothermal, hydro, and solar.”
When asked for a comment, McAdams’ spokeswoman referred to a Salt Lake Tribune op-ed penned in April 2018 by the Democratic congressman supporting Obama’s fuel efficiency standards and calling on former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt to abandon the proposed rollback.
“At a time when we’ve made great bipartisan progress, with all levels of local, state and federal government working cooperatively towards our clean air goals, we urge Pruitt to reconsider his position,” McAdams, who was Salt Lake County’s mayor at the time, wrote with several council members and city mayors. “Utahns’ health, our economy and our environment are at stake.”
http://utahcleancities.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/362WRJV7XFEW7CAKRMGLSO6RSQ.jpg600901Emily Pasketthttp://utahcleancities.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/UCC_logo_web.pngEmily Paskett2019-09-30 21:51:502019-09-30 21:52:08Utah clean air advocates say Trump’s plan to weaken pollution standards is ‘unthinkable’
POSTED 12:25 PM, AUGUST 28, 2019, BY LEXIE JOHNSON, UPDATED AT 12:42PM, AUGUST 28, 2019
SALT LAKE CITY — Several local leaders spoke at the Utah State Capitol Wednesday, calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to not go through with the proposed rollback of America’s clean car standards.
State Representative Stephen Handy, R-Layton, Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, Tammie Bostick of Utah Clean Cities Coalition and Assistant Professor Ben Abbott of Brigham Young University spoke at the event.
All are hoping to encourage Senator Mitt Romney and Representative Ben McAdams to continue supporting clean air initiatives.
State Representative Steve Handy said the EPA has proposed a rollback that would reduce the clean fuel car standards.
“We know that 50 percent of our emissions problems or pollution problems come from tailpipes, so it would be really important to have high standards,” Handy said.
He also said it’s important for the state of Utah to direct its own environment and not for Washington to dictate what we do, saying one standard doesn’t fit every state.
“Give states, allow states the flexibility, and particularly in Utah where we’re moving to tier three gasoline hopefully next year, this isn’t the time to be messing with car standards,” Handy said.
Tammie Bostick with the Utah Clean Cities Coalition says most of our manufacturers have committed to moving forward with the clean car standard and moving that back would be in opposition to where we are as a country.
“I really think that the pushback is going to be very strong, and we strongly support keeping the clean car standard in place and moving forward with it,” Bostick said.
The Utah Clean Cities Coalition said the clean car standards that were put in place in 2012 have been highly successful in protecting the health of families while also saving money at the pump – and they hope the EPA will continue going in that direction.
http://utahcleancities.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/merlin_4505.0-1.jpg8001067Emily Pasketthttp://utahcleancities.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/UCC_logo_web.pngEmily Paskett2019-09-30 21:45:092019-09-30 21:47:45Coalition opposes proposal to rollback clean air standards for vehicles
http://utahcleancities.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/5266403_042319-wtvd-clean-car-rollback-noon-vid.jpg450800Emily Pasketthttp://utahcleancities.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/UCC_logo_web.pngEmily Paskett2019-09-30 21:42:162019-09-30 21:42:16Lawmakers, scientists ask president not to rollback emissions standards
SALT LAKE CITY — Two of the leaders of the Utah Legislature’s bipartisan Clean Air Caucus said the Trump administration’s plan to roll back clean car standards set under the previous administration will be costly for Utah households on three fronts: more unhealthy air pollution, less savings at the pump and job losses.
In a press conference Wednesday at the state Capitol, Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, and Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, called on Utah’s congressional delegation and other elected leaders to urge retention of the toughest fuel economy standards in U.S. history.
“It is the wrong direction for Utah,” according to Harrison, who as a practicing anesthesiologist said she has had to cancel procedures due to a patient’s unhealthy status because of asthma complications.
While she has seen patients who have beat radiation, chemotherapy and even cancer, she’s seen those who “can’t beat air pollution.”
Both Harrison and Handy were joined by Ben Abbott, an assistant professor of ecosystem ecology at Brigham Young University, and Tammie Bostick, executive director of the Utah Clean Cities Coalition, in a plea to keep the standards in place.
The 2012 rule finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tightens emissions standards by 3.5% each year into 2025 and sets a fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon in passenger fuel economy standards by 2025.
Not all vehicles would have to meet that fuel efficiency standard. Instead, automobile manufacturers could sell under performing cars and make up for that with models that outperform that standard.
The EPA is now proposing to freeze the fuel efficiency standard at 2020 levels in a submission it made to the White House in August, keeping it at 37 miles per gallon for passenger cars and light trucks for models 2021 through 2026.
In a revision most likely to provoke a lawsuit from California and other opponents, the Trump administration also wants to strip that state’s ability to set its own standards.
The EPA, in an analysis by Car and Driver, conceded its revised proposal would result in a 5% increase in carbon dioxide emissions through 2026 and 9% increase in carbon dioxide emissions through 2035, but just a 1% increase in smog-forming emissions during the same time period.
Abbott said there is “no safe level” of pollution, pointing to recent research that shows air pollution in Utah results in more deaths than vehicle accidents.
While there are smog alerts for “sensitive” groups, Abbott insisted when it comes to pollution, “there is no such thing as an insensitive group.”
Bostick said to roll back the Obama standards is “unthinkable” especially for a state like Utah that has invested millions in clean air technology and research to curb its problem.
She added the Obama-era standards would have pumped an additional 4,700 jobs into Utah through advancements in automotive technology and other related industries.
The Trump administration said rolling back the clean car standard would save money for consumers and the industry, but 17 automobile manufacturers urged the administration to rethink its position and settle on something more “in the middle” between the two proposals.
http://utahcleancities.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Capture-1.png492737Emily Pasketthttp://utahcleancities.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/UCC_logo_web.pngEmily Paskett2019-09-30 21:38:012019-09-30 21:39:41A federal rollback of clean car standards? Why some Utah leaders say no
Utah company Packsize demos ‘right-size’ packaging to DOE, sustainability leaders
SALT LAKE CITY — As e-commerce giants scramble to retreat from plastic packaging amid a torrent of reports highlighting environmental degradation related to the material, a local cardboard packaging innovator may be set to explode.
On Wednesday, officials from the U.S. Department of Energy and over 100 members of the agency’s Clean Cities Coalitions from around the country toured the world headquarters of Packsize on Salt Lake City’s west side.
Packsize is on the collective radars of many observers thanks to the accomplishments of founder and CEO Hanko Kiessner. The German-born entrepreneur, who adopted Utah as his home after falling in love with the state during an exchange student experience in the ’80s, has embraced the dual goals of offering a highly sustainable and earth-friendly product alongside a commitment to creating company facilities with a light-touch carbon footprint.
The 17-year-old company has innovated a system that employs artificial intelligence-driven software and a family of automated box-building machinery to allow customers to create exactly the right size box for any one, or group of, products for shipping. And do it very, very quickly.
Kiessner noted e-commerce companies were trending away from cardboard, with about 30 percent of all shipments currently happening in plastic packaging, until a recent seismic shift that was seeded by the work of both scientists and journalists.
“It’s now universally understood and decided among the internet retailing industry that packaging has to fit,” Kiessner said. “And not only does it have to fit, but it needs to be made of the right materials.”
Kiessner said just a few years ago, before islands of plastic in the oceans and seemingly ubiquitous microplastic contamination was highlighted by the scientific community and, subsequently, media outlets, companies could rationalize the switch from paper to plastic. But, not any more.
“When the ocean plastic, microplastic topic wasn’t front and center, you could argue maybe that was a tradeoff decision,” Kiessner said. “Today, we know that that trend has to be completely reversed. We have to get out of plastics again, out of plastic mailers.
“They’re not recyclable, they’re not decomposable, we’re finding microplastics in the polar caps, in sea life, and almost everywhere. Next to global warming, this could be another major disaster.”
Packsize boxes are made with the company’s “z-fold” corrugated cardboard, which Kiessner said is sourced from sustainably managed forests and the fibers can be recycled up to 12 times. At the end of that life cycle, the product is entirely biodegradable, but can also be incinerated as an energy-producing source.
How big a deal is right-sizing packaging for the e-commerce world? Kiessner said on an annual basis, if the global shipping market only shipped in appropriately-sized packages, it would save 98 million trees, reduce truck hauling by 24 million loads, and save 1.7 billion gallons of diesel. He said a typical e-commerce package is 40 percent larger than it needs to be.
On arrival at Packsize’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, a notable visual characteristic is the multiple rows of electric vehicle charging stations in front of the building. Kiessner said the array, installed in late 2017, includes 51 standard charging stations and 2 D.C. fast-chargers. The project, which included support from the DOE, Rocky Mountain Power, Utah Clean Cities and others, is the largest of its kind in the state.
Kiessner said the efforts to be a force for change track back to his decision just a few years ago to keep the company in Utah. It was one he said challenged him at multiple levels, particularly after developing asthma due to local air quality issues.
“Air pollution was the only thing between us and the perfect place,” Kiessner said. “We were this close to moving out of the valley … moving out of the state. We decided to move into this building, because we understood at the time there is a solution to the problem that depends only on our own will, and leadership, to activate the method.”
Kiessner and Packsize have embraced that will, adding further incentives to the free-to-employees charging stations by adding a financial incentive for electric vehicle purchases of almost $1,000 per year, as well as converting environmental systems to a high-efficiency heat pump system.
Tammie Bostick, executive director of Utah Clean Cities, said her organization was hosting a three-day event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Clean Cities Coalition program. She noted her organization, under the umbrella of the DOE, was working to help more Utah businesses follow the path Packsize has chosen to help mitigate the state’s leading cause of air pollution issues — combustion engine vehicles.
“This is an effort Clean Cities supported … and we’re working to build more workplace charging locations in the state,” Bostick said. “It’s the kind of work we’re celebrating with our 25th anniversary gathering in Salt Lake City.”
Correction: An earlier version misspelled the the last name of Packsize CEO Hanko Kiessner as Keisnner.