Green Transport

When it comes to going green, building design, construction and operations seem to get the lion’s share of the attention. But many chains are also focusing on where the rubber hits the road to help lower their carbon footprint while reducing costs.

Kohl’s Department Stores and Lowe’s Cos. are among the recipients of the Environmental Protection Agency 2008 SmartWay Excellence Awards, which recognizes companies for their superior efforts to reduce fuel use and lower carbon emissions from freight transport. The two chains were the only retailers among the 27 businesses and organizations honored.

The EPA launched the SmartWay Transport Partnership in 2004 to address environmental and economic challenges in the freight industry. The program offers tools for evaluating opportunities to lower fuel use and emissions and help in locating financing for the purchase of environmental and fuel-saving technology.

The SmartWay brand identifies products and services that reduce transportation-related emissions. Carriers that are members of the partnership, for example, may qualify to label the exterior of their vehicles as a SmartWay Tractor or Smart-Way Trailer.

Here are a few highlights from Kohl’s and Lowe’s ongoing efforts to reduce fuel use and lower carbon emissions from freight transport:

Kohl’s received recognition after just one year as a SmartWay partner. Since joining the partnership, the Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based company has increased its shipments with SmartWay-certified carriers by 35%, resulting in 98% of its mileage logged by such trucks.

The chain improved its backhaul program by 29%, resulting in nearly 19,000 backhaul trips executed on return from stores and eliminating 3.6 million miles of empty truck hauls. The once-empty trailers now carry merchandise from Kohl’s vendors back to the distribution centers.

Additionally, Kohl’s increased its use of rail transport to 31% of inbound shipments, up 4% from 2006 levels. The reduction saved 93,000 tons of CO2—and 9 million gal. of diesel fuel.

Lowe’s: The home improvement retailer spends 86% of its total investment in domestic freight shipping with SmartWay-certified carriers. To improve performance in its private fleet, Lowe’s increased the overall cube utilization of its trailers, allowing the company to ship the same product using 4,866 fewer trailers. This one measure reduced annual mileage by 1.3 million miles, reduced diesel consumption by 285,000 gal. and reduced CO2 emissions by nearly 3,200 tons.

Since joining SmartWay in 2005, Lowe’s has reduced its diesel-fuel consumption by 285,000 gal. and its CO2 emissions by 467 thousand tons.