In the world of shipping pallets, the status quo is wood, which is outdated and inefficient for most applications. The result is millions of mega tons of unnecessary CO2 emissions, every year. When colleges, companies, and communities tell their suppliers to ship on cardboard pallets, they are showing true leadership because they’re helping to draw attention to an issue that deserves our attention and action. Incumbent technologies will always resist change because it benefits them to maintain the status quo, no matter how detrimental it is to the environment. And this is what the wood pallet lobby is currently doing. But change will happen as long as leaders continue to take a stand and do the right thing.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Erica Allison, Director of Marketing and Operations and Tim Perry, Director of Communications of Change the Pallet. Change the Pallet is a nonprofit dedicated to educating and advocating on behalf of lightweight, recyclable corrugated cardboard shipping pallets because of their ability to reduce waste, carbon emissions, and worker injuries. To learn more about how cardboard pallets reduce emissions and how Change the Pallet is trying to change the industry, visit their website: www.changethepallet.org
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
What brought us to this career path was a strange and winding turn of events, leading us to a coffee shop in Northeast Portland where we had a conversation with someone who knew way too much about shipping pallets and their impact on carbon emissions. From there, we dove further into this issue and continued to learn and understand just how much of an impact that lightweight, corrugated pallets can have in reducing scope 3 emissions. Wood pallets were invented and made popular at a time when fuel was cheap and plentiful and the phrase “climate change” wasn’t a thing. Almost a hundred years later, we still use this technology, even though lightweight cardboard pallets exist and are just as capable as wood for most applications but are more efficient and have the ability to reduce truck traffic and carbon emissions on a massive scale.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Let’s be honest, the topic of shipping pallets doesn’t exactly make for the most rip-roaring party banter. But there was this time we were working with Representative Julie Parish on a bill in the Oregon House that had a lot of great bipartisan support. It was doing so well, in fact, that it got the attention of a wood pallet industry association. The association flew out eight of their lobbyists to lean pretty hard on some representatives, and effectively crushed the bill in dramatic fashion. It was a real “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” moment for us. But we learned a lot from the experience, and it has made us stronger and wiser.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We thought it was funny when we found out there was actually a wood pallet lobby, but the humor wore off pretty quickly. They’re powerful, they’re dug in, and they don’t like change.
Can you describe how your organization is making a significant social impact?
Before our advocacy work, shipping pallets were not recognized as an environmental issue. Now, colleges across the United States are adding their names to a growing list of signatories on a joint letter, asking their suppliers to ship to campuses on lightweight, customizable cardboard pallets that are capable of minimizing truck traffic and reducing emissions. This is incredible to us, and we hope to see these requests increase — not only with colleges, but with companies and municipalities across the country.
Wow! Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted this cause?
We have had a mentor and a supporter in our friend Jerry Tinianow, who is the Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Denver. He was nice enough to invite us to his office while we were attending the Denver Sustainability Conference, and he gave us some terrific input that led us to a relationship with ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability USA and AASHE, with whom we partnered to establish our national college campaign.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Yes! Anyone who works for any company, hospital, college, or municipality that receives anything on shipping pallets should consider requesting (or requiring) that suppliers ship to them on cardboard shipping pallets whenever possible. You can add your name to the letter to suppliers via an easy form on our website.
Most palletized shipments in the U.S. are under 1200 pounds, and that is well within the carrying capacity of the average cardboard pallet. Companies respond to demand. If IKEA can switch from wood to cardboard pallets, so can other companies and cities across the United States and around the world. The reduction in weight alone would amount to hundreds of billions of pounds — and this, of course, would result in significant fuel reductions and lead to far fewer emissions.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership happens when people question the status quo and forego whatever discomfort comes from going against the grain so that they can do what is right, instead of what is “normal” or expected. Challenging the status quo is often thankless and entails a lot of resistance from established interests, but such is the cost of leadership. Environmentalism is all about challenging the status quo. In the world of shipping pallets, the status quo is wood, which is outdated and inefficient for most applications. The result is millions of mega tons of unnecessary CO2 emissions, every year. When colleges, companies, and communities tell their suppliers to ship on cardboard pallets, they are showing true leadership because they’re helping to draw attention to an issue that deserves our attention and action. Incumbent technologies will always resist change because it benefits them to maintain the status quo, no matter how detrimental it is to the environment. And this is what the wood pallet lobby is currently doing. But change will happen as long as leaders continue to take a stand and do the right thing.
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