Under the direction of Fleet Manager Allen Mitchell, the Snohomish County Public Works Department has implemented a number of strategies outlined in an initiative designed to create a voluntary certification program. Mitchell serves on the Puget Sound Green Fleets Standard Advisory Committee; his operation was recently honored as the third-best government green fleet in North America by100 Best Fleetsmagazine.
Developed in the 1970s, “canola” stands for “CANadian Oil, Low Acid.” So far, a 15-ton/hour Mathews Co. Model 675 continuous flow dryer (center, red) has processed 350 tons of the seed, 40% of which is oil, using 25% of the available BTUs from the gas stream. Snohomish County is awaiting the arrival of a 24-ton crusher to extract oil from the dried seed for biodiesel. The white propane tank stores gas for the ignition sequence. Photos: Snohomish County Public Works Department

By spring, about 950 acres in Snohomish County are expected to be planted with canola and other oilseed crops. An estimated 1,000 to 1,200 acres should yield enough B20 biodiesel for the county's entire diesel fleet.

With this program, the county has forged a total system that works to everyone's benefit.

“It reduces emissions and keeps fuel production local without displacing other food crops, as some biofuel projects can,” Mitchell says. “Canola wasn't being grown in the area before, but now farmers can rotate it into their fallow fields and serve a new market.”


Snohomish County's efforts are in keeping with the Evergreen Fleets Initiative, a voluntary performance standard being developed by the Puget Sound Clean Cities Coalition of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. The agency works to improve air quality in King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties by adopting and enforcing regulations, sponsoring voluntary initiatives, and educating people and businesses about clean-air and climate-friendly choices they can make.

Puget Sound Clean Cities Coalition is a voluntary public-private partnership that seeks to advance regional environmental and public health, energy security, and economic development by reducing petroleum use in transportation. Part of a network of 90 communities under the U.S. Energy Department's Clean Cities Program, the coalition provides education, technical assistance, and access to grant funds.

The formal rollout of the Evergreen Fleets Initiative is planned for May. The Evergreen Fleets Manual, still in draft form and evolving, will map out a range of strategies managers can use to improve their operation's environmental performance. Each strategy will include a series of goals that can be used to measure and rate improvement.

According to Kimberley Cline, communication specialist with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, the program's initial goal is for fleet managers to establish membership in the initiative. Members would accept its premises, learn how to apply the strategies, and determine their benchmark performance levels.

Eventually, the intention is to develop a certification system along the lines of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating system. Fleets would earn points for achieving specific performance goals. The initiative also is drawing on Canada's E3 (Energy, Environment, Excellence) Fleet program.

Evergreen Fleet strategies are divided into four broad areas:

  • Policy, communication, and training. Establishing top-level support for a green fleet program, and communicating goals and incentives to fleet employees.
  • Vehicle and equipment purchasing. Implementing a “right-size” requirement for vehicle purchases and incorporating green fleet provisions into bid criteria.
  • Vehicle, equipment, and fuel use. These strategies cover fuel procurement efforts, ensuring that flex-fuel vehicles are run with green fuels to the greatest extent possible, implementing systems to track fuel consumption and equipment use efficiency, and implementing a diesel retrofit program.
  • Vehicle and equipment maintenance. Preventive maintenance, recovery and reuse of maintenance products, and selection of environmentally friendly products for vehicle maintenance.

— Hooker is a freelance writer based in Oak Park, Ill.

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For more examples of “green certification” fleet programs and other green fleet policies or plans, visit our article links page.