Sustainability in the supply chain is not about being trendy. Customers are paying more attention to their carbon footprint, and we’re seeing evidence that they want to partner with a 3PL company that upholds those same environmental and social standards. So how can you do your part when you own and operate power-hungry, temperature-controlled warehouse facilities? Here are some of Americold’s initiatives.
Measuring your energy. Responsible energy conservation can lower power usage and your carbon footprint, and that’s one of the things customers want to see. So just like we manage and measure our productivity levels, we do the same with our energy usage.
Commercial refrigeration is an energy-intensive activity, and power consumption is one of our largest expenses. So, we’ve installed real-time energy metering technology in all of our U.S. facilities, allowing us to measure our energy usage centrally. Such technologies mean we’re no longer looking in the rear-view mirror and trying to figure out how we could have performed better; we’re precisely measuring and monitoring how much energy we’re using at any given time. We can even pinpoint specific energy usage peaks and troughs that help us build up patterns and enable us to forecast our power demand.
We developed engineered metrics that define what “normal” power consumption parameters are for each facility at specific occupancy levels. We apply meter readings to those parameters to develop tolerances and have installed alerts to notify local energy teams should an alert trigger. This allows us to review the local situation and return energy usage to established levels quickly. It’s an assurance for our customers; operations are running smoothly and efficiently.
Demand Response programs. We’re committed to supporting the communities we operate in, too. We participate in as many Demand Response programs that we can in the United States, and we’re investigating similar programs for our facilities in Australia and New Zealand. A Demand Response program is a partnership with a local power utility company where commercial customers will agree to reduce their power draw in times when peak power demand is forecasted. This helps utility companies normalize power generation and can delay, and in some cases, omit, the need to bring additional power generation facilities online. We can do this intermittently with no adverse effect on the environment within our facilities.
Alternative energy options. As alternative energy generation solutions evolve, they’re becoming more interesting for our industry. Americold is experimenting with solar power generation and natural gas fuel cells as alternative energy solutions. For example, our Salinas, California, facility uses a natural gas fuel cell to generate more than 6 million kWh of electricity per year. Using natural gas as an energy source reduces the facility’s carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) output by more than 1 million pounds per year when compared to traditional power generation methods.
In 2013, our Gloucester, Massachusetts, site was equipped with roof-mounted solar power units that generate up to 500,000 kWh of clean energy per year, helping offset our power demand locally.
New Americold facilities are equipped with motion-sensing LEDs, and we’re also retrofitting many sites. Replacing metal halide bulbs with motion-sensing LEDs ensures lighting is only activated when there is motion or activity in that specific area of our facilities.
Partnerships that make a difference. We’re vested in partnerships that help us further expand our sustainability efforts. We adhere to SMARTWAY guidelines for our truck operations, and our IT data centers swap renewable energy credits for power consumption with Switch.
We believe that well maintained facilities and refrigeration systems operate more efficiently, and since 2015, we’ve been working with Cascade Refrigeration experts to tune up and optimize our refrigeration systems.
A little bit every day soon adds up. Since 2010, we’ve saved more than 435 million kWh of energy–or enough to power nearly 40,000 homes for a year. Convert that saved kWh into CO2e, and we’ve avoided more than 365 million pounds of CO2e from being released into our atmosphere.
Our sustainability initiatives support our customers’ desires for an environmentally responsible supply chain. It can complement their own initiatives and become an asset in their own strategies for sustainability. As mentioned earlier, commercial refrigeration is an energy-intensive activity but a necessity for our modern lives. We will continue searching out new processes and practices in sustainability, and we look forward to sharing our findings as we go.
Ted Royals is manager of Energy with Americold, a global provider of temperature-controlled infrastructure and supply chain-chain solutions. The industry leader is based in Atlanta.