How can one of the biggest transportation corporations in the United States go green? For CSX and the environment, the key is greater fuel efficiency, enhanced technology that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and a targeted effort to reduce waste. Of course, it doesn't hurt that rail is already one of the most earth-friendly modes of transportation.

“CSX is dedicated to operating in a way that generates strong, sustainable outcomes for communities and shareholders. That is why the company is delivering transparency and progress on all fronts, including environmental benefits,” said Michael Ward, CSX chairman, president and chief executive officer, in a statement to the press. “Improving efficiency and reducing emissions is the right decision for the environment, CSX’s customers, and the company’s shareholders.”

The National Gateway Project

For every ton-mile, a typical truck puts out three times more environmentally harmful nitrogen oxide and particulates than a locomotive.

According to CSX, we could prevent pollution and save a billion gallons of fuel every year if just 10 percent of the nation's freight switched to rail.

That's why they proposed the $842 million National Gateway Project in 2008, pushing for improved infrastructure to link freight transportation between Mid-Atlantic ports and the Midwest. CSX has invested $300 million of its own funds in the project, and is seeking the rest from the U.S. federal government and state governments as a private-public partnership.

CSX cites a long list of benefits to the project, from avoiding 20 million tons of carbon emissions and improving highway safety to creating more than 50,000 jobs and improving and replacing declining infrastructure.

Steps to a Lighter Footprint

Rail travel may be greener than motor vehicles, but it's not perfect. That's why CSX has put so much effort into lightening its own environmental impact.

The first transportation company to set a voluntary goal for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, CSX aims to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 8 percent per revenue ton mile by 2011. That goal would eliminate 2.4 million tons of emissions, the equivalent of taking 441,000 cars off the road.

And just how does CSX plan to meet such an ambitious goal? The railroad company is increasing awareness of fuel efficient train handling through employee training, recording actual train operations so they can give engineers feedback on how to cut back fuel use.

CSX has also implemented 'idle reducing technology', automatically shutting down a locomotive's larger diesel engine when not in use, and has added nearly 20 new multi-engine locomotives to its fleet, which are 25 percent more fuel-efficient than older locomotives.

In September 2010, CSX was named among the top 10 in the Carbon Disclosure Project's 2010 S&P 500 Report, earning the highest score for an industrial company for its leadership in good corporate governance with respect to climate change disclosure practices.

Recycling & Waste Management

CSX's goal of zero waste incites creative thinking for waste management, including recycling steel from old locomotives and rail cars as well as batteries, paper, electronic equipment, oil and more.

The company has also taken a stand on hazardous waste and the usage of toxic materials.

CSX evaluates the cleaners and chemicals it uses on the railroad, and has replaced chlorinated solvents and low-flash-point mineral spirits.

Oil-based paints have been switched out for water-based low-VOC paints purchased in reusable totes.

Trees for Tracks

A new initiative has CSX planting thousands of trees all over the country, from Florida to New Hampshire, as part of the Trees for Tracks program.

CSX has committed to planting a tree for every one of its 21,000 miles of track across its network, and over 6,000 trees have already been planted.

The railroad company works with green groups in states all over the East Coast and the Midwest, including the Alliance for Community Trees, to identify sites in need of additional trees.

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