The green wave is washing over everything in government and business, and the warehouse is no exception. Considering that commercial buildings produce about 13% of carbon emissions in the United States, they have certainly become a focus area in the push for sustainability measures.
In general, sustainability initiatives have become corporate policy, with many setting 2030 as their net zero carbon emissions deadline. At the same time, more and more consumers are basing their purchase decisions on whether a business is following sustainable practices, making it a revenue and loyalty driver as well.
As environmental consciousness grows, the operators of warehouses, distribution, and fulfillment centers must evolve along with it. This pivotal shift toward sustainable practices has meant an increasing focus on environmental compliance in the overall supply chain and logistics sector.
The significance of sustainability in the modern warehouse cannot be overstated. Warehouse owners and operators are realizing that it’s not just a choice but a necessity. Embracing eco-friendly practices is integral to maintaining regulatory compliance, as well as driving long-term business success and creating a positive societal impact
This article will explore various aspects of warehouse sustainability, including regulatory initiatives as well as challenges businesses face, and how technology can address some of these issues.
The Warehouse Indirect Source Rule (ISR): A Crucial Environmental Regulation
California’s Warehouse Indirect Source Rule (ISR), passed in 2021, was driven by concerns over idling truck engines at warehouses in the Inland Empire east of Los Angeles. The area has a huge concentration of e-commerce fulfillment centers, and ISR requires large warehouse operators to offset pollution from the commercial traffic they attract.
Overview of ISR and Its Objectives
ISR, aka Rule 2035 or the Warehouse Actions and Investments to Reduce Emissions (WAIRE), is a regulatory framework aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions at large warehouses. The rule is overseen by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), which covers portions of four populous Southern California counties. Recommended measures include adopting cleaner technologies, transitioning to EV fleets, and minimizing emissions during peak periods. This includes curbing emissions from delivery trucks entering and exiting the warehouse.
Already, AQMD regulators are demonstrating that they mean business. Since enforcement of ISR began four months ago, 500 warehouses have been inspected, and 100 have been found to be in noncompliance, facing fines of up to $12,000 per day.
Under ISR, warehouse operators within AQMD larger than 100,000 square feet are required to offset emission impacts from medium- and heavy-duty trucks – and not just their own. It’s the first measure to regulate facilities rather than truck operators. Warehouses must earn a set amount of WAIRE points annually, calculated based on total truck visits. Fines for violations start at $1,000 per point. Here are the main requirements:
Measures include adopting cleaner technologies, such as electric forklifts and equipment, and making operational changes to minimize emissions during peak periods.
The rule encourages the transition to zero-emission vehicle fleets, such as EVs and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, in the yard and within the warehouse itself.
Owners must report emissions data and compliance efforts to track progress and ensure they’re meeting emission reduction targets.
Emission Reduction Plans
Warehouse operators are encouraged to create emission reduction plans detailing compliance efforts, specific actions, timelines, and strategies.
This is aimed at reducing emissions during high-traffic periods. Methods include optimized scheduling, loading and unloading processes, and taking steps to reduce congestion.
Monitoring and Record-Keeping
Warehouses must monitor and record emissions data, and keep records of maintenance and compliance efforts based on ISR requirements.
Comparing ISR to Earlier Regulations
ISR is but the latest iteration of environmental regulations that impact the warehousing industry, both in California and other states. The difference with ISR is that it’s the first time that warehouse operators have been held accountable for emissions from vehicles they don’t own but are just accessing their property.
California Air Resources Board (CARB)
Created in 1967 under Gov. Ronald Reagan, CARB sets emission standards for diesel equipment, including trucks, forklifts, and cargo-handling equipment. In 2023, CARB passed measures that would ban the sale of gas or diesel-powered vehicles by 2035, and one that called for a prohibition on registering new diesel vehicles as of Jan. 1 of this year. That law, which covers drayage as well as transport vehicles, is being opposed by the California Trucking Association. A portion of the law affecting drayage and fleets with 50 or more trucks is on hold for now, pending a waiver request before the Environmental Protection Agency.
Air Quality Management District (AQMD)
Local AQMDs in California have their own rules and regulations that can affect warehouses. These rules often target stationary sources of pollution and may include requirements for industrial equipment emissions from boilers, heaters, and dust collectors used in warehouses.
Truck Idling Regulations
Thirty-one states, including California and the District of Columbia, have anti-idling laws on the books, including for vehicles in and around warehouses. Again, the aim is to reduce unnecessary emissions and improve air quality.
ISR as a Cornerstone for Sustainable Warehousing
ISR isn’t just a regulation; it’s a catalyst for sustainable warehousing. As noted, it’s a foundational framework intended to foster a shift toward greener, more sustainable warehouse operations.
New York’s Indirect Source Bill
The “indirect source” idea has been picked up by two New York state legislators, who put forward the Clean Deliveries Act. It would require the state Department of Environmental Conservation to review carbon emissions produced by warehouses larger than 50,000 square feet or that had a total of 500,000+ square feet across the state.
Similar to ISR, the CDA would require warehouse operators to:
- Implement an air emissions reduction and mitigation plan.
- Create a points system based on truck traffic.
- Recommend mitigation measures such as the use of zero-emission vehicles and solar equipment.
- Undertake “enhanced mitigation” near “schools, daycare centers, playgrounds, parks, hospitals, senior centers or nursing homes and disadvantaged communities.”
Warehouse Operators Face a Challenging Sustainability Landscape
Given the increased regulatory pressure and a general trend toward warehouse sustainability efforts, companies are finding it difficult to maintain compliance. Here are two primary, interrelated reasons why:
Lack of a Holistic Operational Understanding
Warehouse operators often fail to grasp how interconnected every aspect of their operations is with sustainability. When warehouse and yard operations managers operate within siloes, failing to share mutually beneficial data and insights, this lack of a holistic approach impedes the development of an effective sustainability strategy.
Poor Visibility at the Macro Level
It naturally follows that many warehouse operators lack comprehensive visibility into the overall performance of their sustainability efforts. This results from inadequate tracking systems and reporting mechanisms, preventing a 360-degree view of environmental impacts.
In This Climate, Companies Turn to Technology
Fortunately, cutting-edge technology solutions have been developed to help companies meet various aspects of sustainability goals while also gaining operational efficiencies.
Energy Consumption and Efficiency
Excessive energy use is both a financial drain and works against warehouse sustainability. AI-driven systems use sensors and algorithms to adjust lighting levels, temperature, and airflow based on occupancy and the use of natural light for maximum efficiency. Algorithms can predict equipment failures and maintenance needs, reducing downtime, and AI can automatically adjust energy consumption based on demand.
Optimize Yard Operations
This is pivotal for warehouse sustainability, reducing truck idling time, minimizing fuel consumption, and enhancing efficiency. Gate and yard processes can be streamlined using AI-based automated monitoring. This lowers costs and aligns warehouses with environmentally responsible practices while aiding in regulatory compliance.
Develop Pallet-Level Tracking and Monitoring
Optimizing operations at the pallet level ensures efficient space utilization and reduced energy consumption. AI technology can be leveraged to track, validate, and count pallets, ensuring the correct items are always shipped and received and helping drive overall supply chain efficiency.
AI-driven solutions for both yard operations and pallet tracking have the added benefit of enhancing overall warehouse security across the entire facility and grounds, decreasing the threat of theft and shrinkage eating into profits.
The Right Partner Can Help You Achieve Warehouse Compliance and Sustainability
While California is perennially ahead of the curve in terms of promulgating environmental regulations that impact businesses, aspects of these measures have a tendency to be picked up by other states and even at the federal level. This presents challenges for warehouse operators pursuing a sustainability and compliance plan.
EAIGLE hosted a webinar, “Staying Ahead of Compliance Curves in the Yard: Innovative Approaches to Security and Environmental Regulations.” Our panel of industry experts discussed several topics, including:
- The evolving landscape of yard compliance in North America, focusing on security and environmental sustainability.
- How advanced technologies like EAIGLE’s AVAC solution are revolutionizing yard operations.
- Strategies for navigating and staying ahead of stringent regulatory environments in the warehousing sector.
Gain deeper insights by listening to the recorded webinar now.