OPINION: Freedom of choice key to sustainable transportation success

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A young woman and small child shop for baked goods. They are standing in front of rows of bread.

Have you ever stood staring at the wall of choices in the bread aisle at the grocery store and felt overwhelmed with the options?

What is the most economical choice? Will everyone in the family like it? How long will it last? What option is the healthiest? Will it work for sandwiches and French toast or should I buy two different types?

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We’re incredibly blessed to live in a country with an abundance of options for a variety of goods and services. That’s something we should all be thankful for, especially during July when we celebrate our nation’s independence.

Whether you’re standing in the bread aisle trying to decide what to put in your cart or purchasing a large ticket item like a vehicle, it seems the more options that are available, the more difficult the decision can be. The reality is, for most purchases, the best choice varies individually based on needs, budgets and circumstances.

When it comes to sustainable transportation options, freedom of choice is key. South Shore Clean Cities is a fuel- and technology-neutral organization, meaning we do not favor one transportation fuel or technology type over another. While certain fuels or technologies may be more popular or get more attention at any given time, there is truly no one-size-fits-all option that meets everyone’s operational, budgetary and emission reduction needs.

One municipality may have incredible success with compressed natural gas in its fleet while experiencing tremendous cost and emissions savings, but a nearby municipality might find that particular fuel is not the best option for its budget or operations.

The same holds true for electric vehicles. One transit system or school fleet may be able to integrate electric buses and charging infrastructure into its operations with ease while another may find propane to be a better overall option.

South Shore Clean Cities works with fleets to help them make the best choices for their operations. We manage the Indiana Green Fleet Program for metropolitan planning organizations across the state, including the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC). The program’s goal is to significantly improve environmental performance of business and government vehicle fleets through diesel retrofits, replacements and other strategies.

South Shore Clean Cities works with and guides these fleets to help mitigate barriers preventing adopting alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles while creating policies supporting reduced use of petroleum and vehicle emissions.

One of the most important aspects of the Green Fleet Program is the customized fleet analysis which examines the fleet’s vehicle and fuel use and provides a personalized report with suggestions for which sustainable transportation fuels, vehicles and equipment are right for the fleet.

The report then informs fleet managers, business executives and elected officials how to proceed with future vehicle, equipment and fuel purchases for the greatest returns on investment and emissions reductions.

The data is often the same needed for grant applications to help fund future vehicle and equipment purchases, making their implementation more affordable.

The Green Fleet program has experienced tremendous success in recent years. In 2020 alone, South Shore Clean Cities secured $7.4 million in grant funding for Green Fleet members in the NIRPC region of Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties for a variety of fueling and energy types.

Learn more about the program at www.southshorecleancities.org or by calling our office at (219) 644-3690.

When faced with a variety of options, follow the lead of the organizations making choices for a better tomorrow like those in our Green Fleet program.

Remember, it’s never too late to begin your environmental legacy.

This column originally appeared in The Times of Northwest Indiana. Carl Lisek is executive director of South Shore Clean Cities and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.

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