How Amtrak Commits to Sustainability

Celia PflecklAt Amtrak the Earth matters. That is why we are always striving to implement practices and tactics that improve our fuel energy and efficiency while connecting you to over 500 destinations.

To let our more than 31.6 million passengers know what we are doing to ensure that Amtrak remains one of the more environmentally friendly modes of transportation, we sat down with Celia Pfleckl from the Amtrak Environmental group. Here's what she had to say!

Amtrak has made a public commitment to sustainability. What are the major components of this commitment?
For us, corporate sustainability means operating our business in a way that creates long-term value. This means balancing the needs of the organization with the needs of future generations through consideration of environmental, economic and social factors. We’re focusing on initiatives such as recycling, fuel and energy conservation, sustainable building design, and health and wellness programs for employees.

In 2013, Amtrak joined the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) to report on sustainability initiatives specific to climate change. Why did we choose to report through CDP?
The CDP program gathers data from approximately 5,000 corporations globally. As a member, we are able to benchmark our performance against industry peers and identify risks and opportunities for improving our own sustainability efforts.

How did Amtrak do on our first submission?
Amtrak received a score of 85B. The 85 is out of 100 and represents the disclosure score, which measures the comprehensiveness of our response.  The B (scale is A to E, with A being best) represents the performance score, which measures a company’s positive actions with regard to climate change.

What other commitments has Amtrak made toward sustainability?
Amtrak is a charter member of the Chicago Climate Exchange and committed to reduce emissions from locomotive diesel fuel by 6 percent between 2003 and 2010. We exceeded this goal through various fuel-conservation initiatives that continue today including anti-idling practices, installation of automatic start/stop devices in our locomotives, improvements in rolling stock, locomotive upgrades, and improved training for locomotive engineers.

Amtrak also joined The Climate Registry and committed to produce a comprehensive Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory for all operations. In 2013, we began reporting our GHG inventory to CDP, along with reporting on climate change initiatives.

Amtrak has also signed onto the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Sustainability Commitment, which requires establishing a baseline inventory of GHG emissions as well as other parameters such as water and energy usage, waste and recycling, and air emissions of criteria pollutants. Amtrak recently achieved the Bronze level of the Commitment by completing a sustainability inventory, implementing green initiatives and setting goals for reducing fuel use in locomotives and electricity at facilities.

 

How do you help to improve the environment when you travel? Tell us in the comments below!

8 comments
thegoodhuman
thegoodhuman

 Yep, I am still waiting as well for that "next blog post on sustainability. Stay tuned! It should come out in early February."

thegoodhuman
thegoodhuman

Yep, I am still waiting as well for that "next blog post on sustainability. Stay tuned! It should come out in early February."

TVguy
TVguy

You mention everything that's being done to improve sustainability but you don't mention the very unsustainable change to the dining car. A few years ago you switched from using real dishes and glasses that can be washed and reused hundreds of times... to single use plastic.

To make matters worse these plastic plates, bowls and cups are thrown in the trash instead of being recycled. No matter how green the plastic cups are (I know they are made from a plant-based material that is compostable in limited circumstances)... they will never be as "green" and sustainable as real glass.

I hope this is what is addressed in your next blog post on sustainability.

thegoodhuman
thegoodhuman

That's all wonderful, and kudos on continuing to get better. However, as someone who ONLY travels by Amtrak now, I see an incredible amount of trash thrown away and nothing getting recycled.  All the paper coffee cups, plastic lids, plastic cups, soda bottles, etc etc go in the trash, by both train riders and attendants working on board. Those trash bags get tied up and thrown away.  The recycling bins in the sleepers - when there actually are any - are usually used as a place to store stuff by attendants, making them unusable. 


I appreciate all the work Amtrak does, but something needs to change on board the trains, too.

Amtrak
Amtrak moderator

@thegoodhuman Thanks for always riding Amtrak! We really appreciate your business. We certainly understand your concerns and will be addressing them in the next blog post on sustainability. Stay tuned! It should come out in early February.

neroden
neroden

@Amtrak @thegoodhuman

It's March.  There WAS no "next blog post on sustainability".

Meanwhile, I learn that Amtrak is replacing ceramic dishes on one of the few trains which had them, the Auto Train.. with more throwaway plastic.

In the long run, using real ceramic and glass is not just more environmentally sustainable, it's also cheaper.  Not only is there the huge cost of buying new disposable dishes for every passenger for every meal -- an enormous cost -- but there's also the cost of disposing of them. Most communities are now charging by the pound or by the bag for throwing away garbage.  

Because the communities who have to pay to operate landfills understand sustainability better than Amtrak's management does.   The fee is particularly high in New York City.

Amtrak will be paying those fees... but if Amtrak went back to washable dishes, and managed to actually do paper and bottle recycling on the trains, Amtrak wouldn't be paying those fees.

It appears that Amtrak's commitment to sustainability is skin-deep.

neroden
neroden

@Amtrak @thegoodhuman If it's too difficult to wash the china on board the train, for goodness sakes just wash it on land at the end of each trip in Chicago or New York or whatever.  Storing it until the end of the trip can't be any harder than storing the enormous bags of garbage (which are currently stored until the end of the trip on trains like the Lake Shore Limited).

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