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Set Sail to Sustainability

As the Maid of the Mist readies for her maiden voyage beneath the falling cascades of Niagara Falls, should we see this as a harbinger of more to come?

A similar effort is being made by the Washington State Department of Transportation to meet 2020 greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets set by the state legislation.

The process of transition began last September, with plans to convert three of its largest ferry vessels from diesel to hybrid-electric power.

Those three vessels burn approximately 4.2 million gallons of fuel per year and generate more than 26 percent of the ferry fleet’s annual GHG emissions. The entire fleet generates some 67 percent of WSDOT’s annual GHG emissions.

The benefits of this transition include zero-emission crossings on the proposed routes, major reductions in oxides of nitrogen and particulate emissions, plus the near-elimination of diesel fuel consumption.

The advancements, like those on the Mighty Niagara, will bring a sustainable and reliable operation, leaving Puget Sound habitats less disturbed by boat exhaust fumes or engine noise. 

There is plenty of literature explaining the negative business and profit impacts of going green, but greener practices often lead to higher productivity, better company morale, and overall cost savings in production https://www.nist.gov/blogs/manufacturing-innovation-blog/five-benefits-embracing-sustainability-and-green-manufacturing

A number of U.S. states, like Washington, are taking the initiative to create greener, more sustainable futures for their populations. A big piece of this legislation often is transportation. A few of the green initiatives include electrifying ports, bridges and trucks making the switch from liquid natural gas to plug-in hybrids https://www.citylab.com/perspective/2019/02/sb-100-los-angeles-long-beach-oakland-zero-emissions/581833/

Electrifying transportation and infrastructure at ports is important to clean up regional air quality for the communities affected by air pollution and climate change.

Tackling climate change in any sector is an inter-sectional issue. It cannot be addressed without acknowledging the disproportionate distribution of benefits and burdens across our society. Systematic racism has historically kept communities of color from accessing resources, higher waged jobs, and political voice.

“Systemic and institutional racism has resulted in increased sensitivity and more limited adaptive capacity among people of color, especially lower income people of color and immigrant and refugee communities.

For example, front-line communities are more likely to be exposed to industrial pollution, live closer to busy roads (which are significant sources of air and noise pollution) and farther from effective public transportation, live and work in poorly constructed buildings and in areas subject to flooding, attend schools with fewer resources, and have limited access to high quality health care despite a higher prevalence of preexisting health conditions” https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/Environment/ClimateChange/SEAClimatePreparedness_August2017.pdf

This matters simply because we will not be able to battle climate change without mobilizing the communities that are most affected. Those communities must not only be mobilized, but resources must be poured into the communities that have been left to be polluted industrially with little access to transportation or cleaner spaces and air in their neighborhoods.

Transportation is one of many sectors of our economy in desperate need of restructuring under legislation such as the Green New Deal, which calls for a zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing, and electrified high-speed railways.

These are simply a few suggestions outlined in various pieces of legislation that are popping up all over the country. It is our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities to ensure we are all brought into a greener future, together.

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