Clean Technology Could Create Carbon Negative Advertising

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By Crystal Arvigo

Would Carbon Negative Advertising Influence your Perception of a Product? Please weigh in with your thoughts!

An opportunity exists today, with currently available technology to transform an advertising billboard as we know it into an environmentally beneficial device that could roughly offset the greenhouse gas emissions of two passenger vehicles for one year, every year that it is used. How is this possible, you ask?

What if tractor-trailers, whose average fuel economy is 6 miles per gallon, could be given a facelift by adding two proven aerodynamic devices – a TrailerTail and trailer side skirt – paid for by advertisers? The humdrum trailer would thus be transformed into a rolling billboard and carbon offset (see video in link), providing national visibility for the advertiser, nearly one mile per gallon fuel savings for the trucker and the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of taking about two cars off the road per year.

Here’s how the numbers play out:

  • Tractor-trailers travel between 20,000 and 150,000 miles per year or more, across the nation’s highways.
  • The two aerodynamic devices mentioned above help to streamline the turbulent air flowing behind and under the trailer, reducing aerodynamic drag (shown in image below) and improving fuel efficiency to the tune of 16 gallons of fuel saved for every 1000 miles driven.
Fluid dynamic modeling of aerodynamic drag and air turbulence
  • Using an average of 60,000 miles travelled per year by each tractor-trailer, per US EPA estimates of average passenger vehicle greenhouse gas emissions, the aerodynamic devices would offset the greenhouse gas emissions of two cars every year.
  • There are over 2 million tractor-trailers currently in circulation in the United States, averaging only 6 miles per gallon.
  • There are between 500,000 and 1 million billboards in the U.S. today.
  • The economic and environmental impact of 2 million tractor-trailers being outfitted with aerodynamic equipment serving as rolling billboards would be approximately a $40 billion reduction in U.S. fossil fuel imports and elimination of 200 million tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere from tractor-trailers (over the next decade).  Additionally, over 5000 green jobs would be created in the United States over 5 years to support the equipment manufacturing and installation.
  • The average billboard ad costs about $500 per month, or about $6000 per year.
  • The up-front average cost to outfit a tractor-trailer with aerodynamic equipment is about $3500 – almost half of the billboard’s annual cost, and the equipment would remain with the tractor-trailer through its 7-10 year useful life, continuing to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions with every year, and every mile.
  • Aerodynamic equipment also adds significant safety benefits to tractor-trailers.  By reducing air turbulence around the trailer, the trailer is more stable and less susceptible to swaying in windy on-road conditions as well as generating dangerous road spray behind and around the trailer in wet weather.  Finally, trailer side skirts act as a shield to prevent cars or other objects from sliding under the trailer and TrailerTails® increase the following and braking distance between the rear of a tractor-trailer and other vehicles.

Would this “green” advertising appeal to you and affect your perception of a company’s product, knowing the economic, environmental and safety impact this advertising choice would make?

Would you like to see more carbon negative advertising?

About the author:  Crystal Arvigo is a Sustainable Management MBA student at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco.  She works for ATDynamics, the leading supplier of tractor-trailer rear drag aerodynamic technology and is passionate about questioning the way things are done to uncover smarter solutions that are beneficial to the environment and society.

4 responses

  1. Love this idea! Only problem is that often the owners of the trucks want to advertise their own companies … ie, WalMart trucks say “Wal Mart” on the side. I wonder if anyone’s done the math to see if these trucks would be seen by as many viewers as, say, a city bus which has a similar advertising model.

  2. Well it all depends how you look at advertising, rather than just the means to deliver it. 

    You could just a well say that this is will be extra advertising, so it’s attempting to sell yet more units of “stuff”, increasing existing environmental problems. The products would have to be fully sustainable products for this to have real benefit, right?

    You have to think about what advertising actually does and address that. It would be laughable to have an oil company advertise with carbon neutral advertising, for instance. 

  3. Unless the purpose of this desperate advertiser was to “clean up” their image and increase “public opinion” was the objective, we don’t think green product makers would ever consider this. It would be hard for the advertiser to make a serious, credible commitment unless it was an automaker, or a major retailer like Walmart.

    Now for the little guys, there are a lot more options for “carbon negative” advertising. We’re working with some clients to place ads on parked bikes. And no not those stupid annoying pedicab bikes, but with real bike-to-workers who want to support ethical, local, green companies without having to buy something. It’s our little crowd advertising experiment to introduce new products to market and introduce great creative back onto the scene. 

  4. I like this idea… I’ve got several tractor trailers and would love to get my hands on some aerodynamic equipment – but it would be great to get it for free or make it less expensive. I’ve been eyeing that trailertail device…looks like the best solution for rear drag aerodynamics.

    I’ve used advertisements on my trailers before, but if there was a way to have the Ads generate revenue while saving fuel – seems like a win for everyone. Advertisers are given a new ‘greener’ way, truckers are burning less fuel and the general public is breathing cleaner air…and ultimately the USA becomes less dependent on foreign oil, etc. Trailers are going to be driving around delivering your products on a daily basis so if there is a way to make it more fuel efficient / affordable, it’s a no-brainer.  
    What grinds my gears is when I see those trucks driving around pulling an ad and NO CARGO!  Why not let the advertising industry which has tons of money to burn on Ads, help the low-margin trucking industry subsidize the cost of aerodynamics, thereby burning less fuel through aerodynamic ads?  Advertisers are going to advertise whether you like it or not… Why not help save our natural resources at the same time.
       I’m looking forward to retrofiting my fleet with this and passing the news on to fellow truckers!

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