Green Scene: Snack company reducing its carbon footprint

Eating a bag of Frito-Lay chips might not help reduce your waistline, but if you are going to eat chips anyway, at least this snack company is doing what it can to reduce its overall environmental footprint.

Frito-Lay and parent company, PepsiCo, have developed a multifaceted sustainability plan which has reduced the company’s consumption of natural gas, motor fuel, water, heat and electricity significantly over the past two decades. Dave Haft, a retired senior vice president of PepsiCo, spoke at Northern Illinois University on Feb. 6 about the company’s accomplishments and future plans. PepsiCo has decreased its environmental impact each of the last 13 years and has earned the Energy Star Award by the EPA. Currently, 28 Frito-Lay plants are zero waste, which is defined as sending less than 1 percent waste to landfills, and 17 manufacturing sites are LEED Gold certified.

Frito-Lay has made a large-scale commitment to reduce fuel consumption by 50 percent by 2020. The company also maximizes fuel efficiency through improved route planning, idle reduction, speed governance, and preventive maintenance.

In June of last year, Frito-Lay opened its first Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station in Beloit, Wis., and has broken ground on seven public CNG fueling stations across the U.S. The company has 208 vehicles powered by CNG and continues to add CNG tractors to its fleet.

The company’s commitment to fuel reduction will have a significant impact, since Frito-Lay’s 20,000 vehicles are the seventh-largest fleet in the U.S. Frito-Lay has the largest fleet of all-electric trucks in the country, with 263 currently in operation.

In 2007, the company made a commitment to take one of its manufacturing plants “off the grid.” The plant at Casa Grande, Ariz. can run almost entirely on renewable energy and recycled water, while producing nearly zero waste. This has been achieved by retrofitting the plant with membrane bioreactors, biomass boilers and solar technology.

The plant has 36 acres of solar panels providing 50 percent of its electricity needs. Solar concentrators provide all the energy needed to heat the oil to fry Sun Chips. The Stirling Engine and the ZeeWeed ultra filtration membrane recycle the plant’s waste water to drinking water purity.

Wood and agricultural waste are turned into energy by the biomass boiler, creating the steam needed to run the plant. This reduces the plant’s use of natural gas by 80 percent since 2007.

Two-thirds of the energy for the Casa Grande plant comes from renewable energy sources, and reduces greenhouse gasses by 50 percent.

The ESE Institute at NIU is taking a trip to the PepsiCo plant in Beloit on April 26. Contact for more information.

Green Scene is written by Renee Kopulos and Linda Yates, members of a citizens group working with the City of DeKalb Citizens Environmental Commission. Contact them at, with “Green Scene” in the subject line.

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