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EPA emission classifications: What are they and why are they important?

10.06.2020 | By Katherine Stolin | 5 min. read

How categorizing greenhouse gas emissions helps us reduce them

Often, when we read about greenhouse gas emissions, we’re hit by a wave of statistics. But what do these numbers actually mean? In this article, we’ll debunk the three categorizations of carbon emissions that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlines, and outline ways businesses can go green with eco-friendly shipping options.

First of all, why did the EPA create these distinctions? 

The Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHRCP) requires that high-emitting firms, such as fuel and gas suppliers, track their carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emission levels. Prior to this rule, the EPA wanted to design a system that would classify emission levels and make it easier to set targeted and attainable goals for limiting them.

The EPA created three distinct categories for greenhouse gas emissions: Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3. Companies can fall into any or all of these categories.

Scope 1

Scope 1 categorizes firms that have high greenhouse gas emissions, that is, companies that are burning fossil fuels on their premise or are consuming fleet fuel. 

Scope 2

Scope 2 emissions are milder than Scope 1, though just as detrimental. Scope 2 includes emissions from electricity generation and heat or steam. The company is accountable for related emissions, including power from a utility provider.

What are the EPA’s goals for Scope 1 and 2 emission reduction?

The good news is Scope 1 and 2 emissions decreased by 46.7% between 2008 and 2019. This is definitely an improvement, but how did the EPA emission categorizations help? And how can they help us continue to reduce emissions?

The EPA achieved this reduction by setting a specific goal: To encourage corporations to use  renewable energy sources, like solar and wind energy.

The EPA also targeted fleet fuel use, which produces a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions. Fleets are now trying to move away from petroleum, an environmentally unfriendly form of fuel, and move instead towards using alternative sources.

Scope 3

Scope 3 categorizes emissions that are not directly from a company-controlled or -owned source, but are indirectly produced due to company activity.

Scope 3 emissions include: 

  • Emissions produced by commuting employees 
  • Emissions caused by waste disposal 
  • Emissions due to the transportation and distribution of electricity that the firm purchases (also called T&D losses)

Scope 3 is the most common category — most companies fall under Scope 3, including much of the food and beverage industry. 

Keep in mind that companies can fall under multiple Scopes. Many Scope 3 companies also produce some Scope 1 and 2 emissions, such as Pepsi, Nestlé and Coca Cola. All three of these companies have emission reduction plans and have reported a gradual decrease in their emission levels over the past few years. 

What are the EPA’s goals for Scope 3 emission reduction?

The EPA has encouraged companies to decrease employee travel to help lower Scope 3 emissions. Due to the video-conferencing technology that has developed in recent years, employee travel has decreased dramatically. Especially in the last few months, due to the pandemic, companies have increasingly begun going virtual.

The EPA targeted Scope 3 emissions specifically in its latest sustainability plan. Along with providing companies with information about alternative, less harmful energy sources, the plan encourages companies to help shorten their employees’ commutes and invite them to commute in a more sustainable way, like biking or walking. 

As a result, emissions caused by employee commuting decreased by 37.1% between 2008 and 2017. 

What can you do to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions?

The first thing you can do is select an environmentally friendly shipping method. Shared truckload (STL) shipping combines your LTL freight with that of another shipper into one multi-stop truckload. STL reduces trucking-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40% with smart, safe, and streamlined transit, is far safer than LTL shipping, and costs a fraction of TL shipping.

The No. 1 tactic for reducing your company’s carbon footprint and fighting climate change? Choosing a carbon neutral shipping option, like FlockDirect™️. FlockDirect shipments move with already-sustainable shared truckload shipping — then, Flock Freight® purchases carbon offsets to bring the shipment’s environmental impact down to zero (at no cost to the shipper). 

With carbon neutral shared truckload shipping, Flock Freight makes it easy for shippers to achieve carbon neutrality in their supply chain. Plus, it’s a historic moment for the freight industry: Flock Freight is the first and only logistics provider to offer over-the-road carbon neutral shipping at the point of sale for no additional cost.

If your company has net-zero ambitions, you can also consider using sustainable shipping materials, such as corrugated shipping pallets. Corrugated pallets can sometimes be more expensive, but they help you save on recycling costs. 

Another way to lower your emissions is to work with environmentally conscious partners. For example, work with logistics providers that put the planet first. Flock Freight, the only certified B Corporation freight shipping company, achieved B Corp status due to its extensive work towards reducing emissions in the freight industry. Last year, Flock Freight shrunk trucking-related CO2e emissions by over 4,335 metric tons. The company’s shared truckload service helps shippers decrease transportation-related emissions by up to 40% — as of March 1st 2021, all FlockDirect™️ shipments are carbon neutral. Currently, Flock Freight is continuing to work towards its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 5,000 metric tons and more.

Is reducing your CO2 emissions worth the cost?  

The freight industry has a big carbon footprint, but businesses can use the power of choice to lower their emissions. Modernizing your operations will help you not only meet sustainability goals, but also lower your logistics costs in the long term. Invest the time to adopt more environmentally friendly practices; you’ll not only begin to solve today’s problems, you’ll help ensure a better future for the next generation.


Ship shared truckload for more environmentally responsible freight service.