I picked up some good wise cracks at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Freight Sustainability Summit, a.k.a. the SmartWay lovefest.
There were lots of shippers and carriers at the D.C. event on Nov. 17-18 talking about how the EPA’s SmartWay program has really given them an avenue to reduce the environmental impact of their operations and save money in collaboration with their business partners. The event was a bit self-congratulatory, but the positive attitude of the companies towards the program was genuine.
“I was going to wear my cheesehead, but I thought it would clash with my tie.” -- Glen Kedzie, vice president and environmental counsel, American Trucking Associations, referring to an accessory worn by fans of the Green Bay Packers football team.
EPA officials take pride that they designed SmartWay with the direct input of freight stakeholders, which has led to strong support from the business community. Matthew Payne, a SmartWay program manager, said the agency has made it a point to carefully listen to the recommendations, without preconceived notions. He offered a joke to illustrate how someone can think they are listening, but are only hearing someone speak.
“Guy goes to the doctor for his annual checkup. When he’s done, he tells the doctor that he’s concerned about his wife’s hearing problem. The doctor says, ‘We need to find out how bad the problem is. Let’s do a test. Go home and go into a different room than your wife is in and ask her a question. And if she doesn’t answer, just go a bit closer each time and ask the same question. And when she answers, you’ll know the exact problem.’
“So the wife is in the kitchen cooking and the guy goes to another room and asks, ‘Honey, what’s for dinner?’ When he doesn’t get an answer, he moves to a closer room and asks her the same thing. Again, no answer. He goes in the kitchen and asks her, but she doesn’t respond. Then he gets right next to her and says, ‘Honey, what’s for dinner?'
“ ‘Stan, for the fifth time. We’re having hamburgers,’ ” she said.
Leading by example
“If your teenager sends you a text and there’s jargon you don’t understand, send him back one that’s got NGWBS.” – John Emerson, director of standards and government relations for Michelin, talking about the latest tire technology that eliminates dual tires on tractor-trailers, called the New Generation Wide Base Single, or NGWBS, for short.
The New Generation Wide Base Single eliminates eight tire positions from the normal 18-wheeler configuration. Tractor-trailers instead roll on 10 tires. That could lead to some cultural change, Emerson said.
“I was told there was an unintended consequence of that, which is there are several country music songs that will have to be rewritten. But I guess that’s the price of progress.”
If you want evidence that Wal-Mart is committed to its environmental goals of reducing the amount of packaging for items sold in its stores and eventually achieving zero waste, look no further than the business card handed out by Elizabeth Fretheim, the company’s director of business strategy and sustainability.
It’s half the size of the normal business card used by everyone else in America.
It saves paper, but not your eyes.
Still, the message is clear. Wal-Mart is taking every step it can think of to reduce energy use, carbon emissions and solid waste.
Coming off the bench
The audience at an Eno Transportation Foundation workshop on transportation investment in an era of debt reduction was treated to an interesting keynote luncheon speech by Kansas Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller.
Miller, who is stepping down at the end of the year to join engineering consulting firm Cambridge Systematics, explained she wasn’t supposed to be at the podium.
“A long time ago Joshua [Schenk, Eno’s president] called me and said, ‘We’ve arranged a luncheon speaker but I just would like to be sure we have a backup in case we need it.’
“So I said, ‘sure,’ and never gave it another thought.
“Then last week he called me and said, ‘We need to implement the back-up plan.’ And I thought, ‘Is that a code?’ I mean, what is he talking about?
“So, it was quite a surprise to find that, ‘Oh, I’m the back-up speaker.’ ”
After her speech Schenk took the microphone and said: “That was very good. Probably much better than our original speaker would have been.”