July 20th, 2020 by Johnna Crider
Amtrak has released its 2019 sustainability report for the fiscal year of 2019. “Our country, our society, and our company face a different future than what we anticipated even six months ago. When the work described in the following pages was taking place, it was within one of Amtrak’s strongest ridership and financial years in the company’s history. As we evaluate the future before us and how we can best serve our customers across America, sustainability remains a key focus,” said Amtrak’s CEO and President, William Flynn.
His words just show how fast things can change for anyone, whether it’s a company or even an individual. He noted that during the lockdown that was supposed to stop the spread of COVID-19, the world saw a global reduction in emissions that came close to 17%. Los Angeles, a city that is along Amtrak’s routes, saw clear skies and mountains for the first time in many years. “The air quality was the best it’s been in decades,” he said. This inspired him to point out an obvious solution to driving vehicles and trucks: riding in passenger trains. And, yes, I have my own Amtrak stories (two of them) and can attest to how unique and fun that trip was.
Snapshot of The Report
Before Amtrak dove into the good stuff, they eased us in with a Q&A with CFO Tracie Winbigler, and a reminder as to why Amtrak is important to America and the company’s core values. In the Q&A, Winbigler shared that Amtrak’s executive team is focusing on sustainability and encourages dialogue with employees about things such as energy and recycling. They are also looking for employees that have experience in these areas and noted that current employees are taking initiative as well. “Amtrak’s ability to consistently achieve sustainability goals proves our dedication to continuous progress.”
Amtrak has four core values that it abides by, and believes these express its principles and beliefs:
- Do the right thing. This is central to being safe and keeping their staff and customers safe.
- Put customers first.
- This is the essence of its mandate from Congress.
- Excel together, focusing on teamwork and performance.
Regarding those four values, I want to share one of my stories right quick: Flash back to 2007 in Atlanta where I applied for a job with Amtrak. I was flown to Washington, DC, and interviewed for a position on the Autotrain. I remember that during the interview I was told about these values. I remember seeing the passion in my interviewer’s eyes and her excitement. I also made friends who later worked for Amtrak, and they had positive things to say about the company. I didn’t get the job, however, but it wound up being a good thing that I didn’t. I didn’t really want to move to Washington, D.C.
Amtrak has four sustainability goals that focus its workforce on resources that it consumes. They are:
- Electricity Use. In 2019, Amtrak decreased its energy use by 4.4% at 40 of its largest facilities. Its goal was 1%. This was a -14.5% change since 2019.
- Diesel Fuel Use. Amtrak had a goal to decrease its diesel fuel use by 1%, and it met and surpassed that goal with a 2.8% reduction in purchased revenue diesel fuel over 2018. Since 2010, Amtrak has decreased its diesel fuel use by 11.3%.
- Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions. Amtrak surpassed its 1% goal and decreased its GHG emissions by almost 4% in 2019 compared to 2018. Since 2010, that number has decreased by 20.3%.
- Recycling Rate. In 2019, Amtrak’s goal was to divert 15% of its trash away from landfills, which is a step toward its goal of 20% by 2020.
Regarding diesel fuel use, electricity use, and GHG, Amtrak elaborated on just how it met its goals.
- Revenue Locomotive Diesel Fuel. In 2019, its mechanical and transportation departments focused on driving down locomotive idling time — especially at maintenance facilities. Amtrak also deployed fuel-efficient charger locomotives on state-supported routes that contributed to its 2.8% reduction.
- Electricity (non-propulsion). Energy conservation projects at Amtrak facilities in Oakland, Rensselaer, Long Island City, Los Angeles, and Lorton, VA, were contributing factors toward its decreased energy use.
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Amtrak calculated and verified its data from all locomotive diesel fuel, traction power, electricity used at its facilities, fuel for maintenance equipment, refrigerants, and highway fleet. It also saw a decrease due to the U.S. EPA’s updated emission factors eGrid database that showed changes in the electricity supply mix.
Amtrak also shared details of how it met its recycling goals. Its environmental audit score was 91.6% for 2010 and its recycling rate is 15%. It recycled industrial materials such as steel parts, scrap metals, and polycarbonate windows. It also recycled municipal materials such as trash generated onboard the trains and at its facilities. Also, in 2019, Amtrak focused on intruding new recycling services and identifying additional recyclable waste streams.
Amtrak included other company-related information, such as injury reports and its response to Covid-19, and it highlighted the Beech Grove Wastewater Treatment Basin that neighbors one of its largest maintenance facilities. At no cost to the treatment facility, Amtrak upgraded a deteriorated 60,000-gallon industrial wastewater treatment basin to improve system safety and functionality.
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