Norkol Lowers Its Carbon Footprint by Moving 80 Million Pounds of Paper with Union Pacific

Did you know Norkol moves nearly 80 million pounds of paper via rail annually for both our mill and end-user partners? 

Norkol’s imports come to our manufacturing facilities from far and wide, including the Pacific Northwest, southern California, Canada, and the northeastern parts of the United States, as well as ports around the country that support our global partners. We ship to destinations including Texas, California, Florida, New York, Washington, and everywhere in between. It’s important for us to be able to meet our commitments with our customers (and their customers) by taking the most efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly routes as we transport our products from place to place.

With all this movement of goods, we felt it was vital to find a transportation outlet that worked well for our company, our vendors, our customers, and the environment as a whole. That’s why we opted to rely heavily on the rail system. In the end, our decision to work with Union Pacific has been a positive tactic that’s brought benefits to our customers, vendors, and the global landscape at large.

How Transportation Impacts Our Business

Transportation is a vital aspect of the modern world, enabling people and goods to move from one place to another. However, with the growth in the world’s population and industries, transportation has become a major contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which is a major cause of climate change. As a result, there is growing concern to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector. One of the ways to achieve this is to move freight by train instead of trucks in the United States, which reduces GHG emissions by up to 75%. 

For a quick reference, consider the following:

In 2022, Norkol transported a total of 38,765 tons via rail, across 782,131 miles, including both box car and container shipments. If these loads were transported via truck shipments, the carbon footprint would have been 4,690 metric tons. However, the use of rail to transport this amount of freight resulted in a total carbon emission savings of 3,599 metric tons, as the train shipments only amounted to a total carbon footprint of 1,091 metric tons.

Freighting by Rail

Trains have been used to move goods across the United States, and they’ve been proven to be an effective mode of transportation. Trains have a much larger capacity than trucks and can carry more goods at once. For example, a typical freight train can carry between 280 and 300 truckloads of goods. Additionally, trains can travel long distances without stopping, which reduces the amount of time it takes to move goods from one place to another. 

Moving freight by train instead of truck has significant environmental benefits. According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), trains are up to four times more fuel-efficient than trucks. This means that shipping goods by rail results in significantly lower GHG emissions than shipping by truck. AAR estimates that moving one ton of freight by rail instead of truck reduces GHG emissions by up to 75%.

Moreover, trains have the potential to reduce congestion on the highways, leading to reduced GHG emissions from idling trucks. By using trains, there are fewer trucks on the roads, which means a reduction in both traffic overcrowding and idling-truck emission issues. Additionally, by using rail, there is a reduced need for road maintenance, which can lead to a reduction in GHG emissions from construction and maintenance activities, as well.

The Economic Benefits of Moving Freight by Rail

Moving freight by rail instead of truck has economic benefits, too. Rail transportation is generally less expensive than trucking, especially for long-distance transportation. This is because trains have lower fuel costs and require fewer drivers than trucks. Additionally, trains can transport a large volume of goods at once, reducing the need for multiple trips. 

How Norkol & Union Pacific are Closing the Gap on Unnecessary Carbon Emissions

Here at Norkol, we use Union Pacific because we believe in working with environmentally friendly partners who put the Earth at the forefront of importance in today’s world. We work hard to ensure the vendors and companies we have relationships believe in doing good for the planet just like we do; that’s why we’re proud to unite with Union Pacific to ensure our goods are shipped across the country with as minimal carbon footprint as possible. 

Union Pacific is committed to reducing its carbon footprint and has developed a Climate Action Plan that outlines the measures they’re taking to decrease their environmental impact, reach their science-based objectives, and attain net zero emissions by 2050. 

Reducing Absolute Scope 1 Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Union Pacific’s locomotive operations are the primary source of their Scope 1 emissions. To reduce those emissions on an annual basis, the company has implemented short-term strategies that focus on enhancing operating efficiencies, locomotive fuel efficiency, and modernizing the fleet of locomotives. These efforts have generated a substantial 18.5% reduction in locomotive GHG emissions compared to the original 2018 baseline. 

Given the uncertainty surrounding the path towards a net-zero future, the Union Pacific team is collaborating with other entities to understand plausible pathways. In the short term, they aim to continue making progress on fuel efficiency and operational productivity, while also increasing the use of low-carbon fuels, all of which are critical to achieving their science-based targets. Additionally, they’ve recently announced investments in battery-electric and hybrid propulsion technology while seeking partnerships that will help them develop long-term solutions to achieve their targets. 

In 2023, Union Pacific expects to further refine its potential net-zero pathways as part of their science-based net-zero target submission to SBTi. Looking beyond 2030, the rail company aims to better understand the capability of hybrid propulsion technology and will consider the role of dual-fuel internal combustion engine technology in the transition to zero-emissions technology.

Union Pacific’s goal is to achieve a 26% reduction in absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as GHG emissions from locomotive operations on a well-to-wheel basis by 2030, based on that initial 2018 baseline. 

Setting a Biofuel Target

In order to increase the percentage of low-carbon fuels consumed, Union Pacific set a company-specific target to reach 10% of its total diesel consumption by 2025 and 20% by 2030, which was announced last year. As of 2021, the company’s low-carbon fuels consumption was 3.0% of its total diesel usage, up from 2.2% in 2020 and over 4.0% since mid-2022. They have a clear plan in place to achieve their 20% low-carbon fuels target by 2030. 

To facilitate the use of low-carbon fuels, they’ve added more locomotive fueling locations that offer these options, including Los Angeles, Houston, Roseville, Des Moines, and Baton Rouge. They’ve also analyzed their network fueling locations and have begun the design work for new and retrofitted storage and blending infrastructure to increase their usage of low-carbon fuels annually.

Purchasing Battery-Powered Electric Engines

Union Pacific recently unveiled its intention to acquire the most massive carrier-owned fleet of battery-electric locomotives in North America for experimentation in freight yard activities. They are currently piloting this technology during its initial stages to gain a deeper understanding of how it could be implemented on a large scale in their operations. The company is also providing feedback to manufacturers to drive advancements in battery-electric locomotive innovation.

Why Choose Norkol as Your Paper and Packaging Supplier

At Norkol, we’re part of the environmentally conscious effort that’s working toward ensuring products are moved with earth-friendly ease. If you’re interested in reducing your company’s carbon footprint when you order paper products, reach out to us today!