How Changing the Pallet Can Change the Planet

Why Change the Pallet? It may sound simple but Occam’s Razor tells us that the simplest solution is often the most effective.

Our elected leaders have gone to Congress time and time again with sweeping, well-intentioned climate agendas and legislation to reduce CO2 emissions.  With kudos for the efforts, the vast majority either never become law, or are so diluted that, in practice, they serve little purpose.  Similarly, non-binding pledges by U.S. companies to reduce CO2e by 50% by 2025 such as this one (add link to 13-company pledge) aren’t going to get us there, although they do make for nice photo ops. 

Accordingly, we fight the good fight to materially, and empirically, reduce CO2e through smart technologies and strong business propositions, and appreciate your support.  We do this by seeking to Change the Pallet, and applaud other organizations seeking to effect largescale CO2e reductions through actions, not words.

Wood pallets are as ubiquitous in shipping as they are seemingly innocuous. Yet, in aggregate, they are an environmental catastrophe. Two billion are in circulation at any one time.  That’s in the U.S. alone.  Another 400+ million will enter the U.S. next year, while tens of millions will add to landfill mountains.  As my son would say, “yuuuuuck.”

Wood pallets are as inefficient as they are heavy, requiring more trucks to transport less product to make up for the unnecessary pallet weight. The addition of one extra truck may be no big deal, but when multiplied by tens of millions of annual U.S. truck shipments, the numbers are staggering.  In total, heavy trucks account for ~30% of U.S. CO2e each year.   

All those battles over power plant emissions you read about?  These efforts to reduce CO2e face massive business and, accordingly, Republican opposition. 

Novel idea: instead of running into that brick wall, what about replacing wood pallets with corrugated paper ones that are ~80% lighter, and allow trucks to also increase interior area usage?  Will Big Business and Congress fight a more efficient product transport system that saves money and can reduce CO2e by tens of millions of metric tons each year?

Moreover, lighter and better packed trucks means reduced traffic, which affects all of us on a daily basis.  Roads take less wear and tear, saving taxpayers money.  People breathe cleaner air.  Fewer trees are cut down to make those 400 million new wood pallets, and landfill waste declines.

Unlike the national battle being waged by President Obama and others on power plant emissions, Changing the Pallet requires little more than word of mouth and good business sense.  The business, financial and environmental propositions are that strong.  They just need change agents at companies, public support, and the Voices of concerned Americans.

I would love to hear people talking about Change the Pallet in a coffee shop or at a game.  That may not happen, but the next time someone tells you to bike instead of driving a car, maybe you’ll tell them that their time would be better spent urging U.S. retailers and large-scale manufacturers to open their doors to corrugated paper pallets so we can cut CO2e by millions of metric tons, rather than save those from one car ride.  (Of course, Change the Pallet fully supports efforts to reduce cars in favor of mass transit, bicycles and walking!) 

Or better still, the next time someone in your organization brings up a reduced carbon footprint, ask them if they’ve considered telling suppliers to your company, university, hospital, etc. to ship to your facilities on corrugated paper pallets.  Not only will trucks come off the road and emissions out of the air, but it’s a great step towards zero landfill (and reduced costs) when your organization recycles pallets upon receipt rather than pays to dispose of them.

It’s that simple.