HELPING THE ENVIRONMENT: Toyota Material Handling recognized for efforts to reduce carbon footprint

Toyota Material Handling representatives accept the 2021 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence in the Five Year Continuous Improvement category, presented by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). Shown, left-right, are Julia Wickard, IDEM OPS assistant commissioner; Brian Rockensuess, IDEM chief of staff; Brian Egloff, TMH director of operations; Dixon Churchill, TMH Environmental Health and Safety Manager; and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb. Photo provided courtesy of Alec Gray

A local manufacturer has been recognized by state officials for its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint over the past five years.

Toyota Material Handling, which has a sprawling campus in the Woodside Industrial Park on the south side of Columbus, has received the 2021 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for five years of continuous improvement, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management announced.

Company officials traveled to Indianapolis this past week to receive the award from Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The company, which manufactures forklifts, implemented seven projects aimed at reducing emissions and improving efficiency, resulting in a 37% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, 23% decrease in natural gas consumption and 22% drop in electricity consumption since 2018, IDEM said.

Overall, the projects resulted in a more than 1,000-ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions per year, the company said in a statement.

A 1,000-ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is about the same amount that an average passenger vehicle emits over the course of 2.5 million miles, or the equivalent of taking 217 passenger vehicles off the road each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“It’s exciting for us,” Toyota Material Handling spokesman Justin Albers said. “…Our culture at Toyota is very much driven in the idea of constantly improving.”

The projects included installing about 1,300 LED lightbulbs and adding motion-detected lighting at its facility in Columbus, which saved about 1.2 million kilowatts of electricity per year, Albers said.

Another project included the installation of 18 weld fume collection systems, which reduce fumes produced from welding, allowing the company to reuse air more frequently and save energy.

Other energy savings came from the use of renewable energy generated by a wind farm in Illinois. Currently, about 25% of the energy that the company purchases comes from renewable wind energy, Albers said.

Additionally, officials installed radiant dock heaters, which are more energy efficient than the previous heaters that were being used, in the facility’s loading docks, where parts and finished forklifts are loaded on to trucks, Albers said.

The company also made air leak and compressor improvements and installed power and gas monitoring systems.

The award comes as manufacturers and companies in other sectors of the economy are looking to reduce emissions and setting targets to reach by the end of the decade or by 2050 amid a global push to curb greenhouse gas emissions and avert the threat of catastrophic climate change.

Toyota Material Handling’s parent company, Japan-based Toyota Industry Corp., has set out a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 32% by the end of the decade, Albers said.

Toyota also has laid out a series of challenges to achieve by mid-century, called Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050, including reducing CO2 emissions from new vehicles by 90% compared to 2010 levels and eliminating CO2 emissions from suppliers and dealers.

Other local manufacturers have laid out environmental goals, including Cummins Inc., which unveiled its Planet 2050 strategy in 2019, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions from facilities and operations by 50% by the end of the decade and near zero pollution in Cummins’ facilities and operations by mid-century.

Similar efforts are being undertaken by companies across the country, including General Motors, which has committed to using 100% renewable energy by 2050, and financial institutions like Bank of America, which has said it plans to “deploy and mobilize $1 trillion by 2030 to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.”

For their part, officials at Toyota Material Handling feel that industry has a “huge role” in helping address climate change, Albers said.

“I think industry has a huge role to play (in addressing climate change), equally if not larger (than government),” Albers said. “The government will put limitations on things, and that’s they’re role. But we view our role as an organization to be thinking that way anyway.”