Purolator recognized with U of T Sustainable Action Award for environmental benefits of Urban Quick Stop pilot project

two men shake hands as award is given in front of seated audience.

Above: Purolator’s Dr. Daniel Baron (L) accepts U of T Sustainable Action Award from Scott Hendershot (R), Senior Manager, Sustainability Office, University of Toronto, at the Adams Sustainability Celebration Award Ceremony, March 3, 2023. (Photo: Tory Grewar)

Purolator Inc. was awarded the University of Toronto Sustainable Action Award, External Business or Partner category, on March 3, 2023, at the 2022-23 Adams Sustainability Celebration Award Ceremony and Innovation Pitch Prize Competition held at Hart House, University of Toronto.

The award recognizes individuals and teams who make tangible contributions to sustainability at U of T. Purolator received the award for the recent launch of their Urban Quick Stop mini hub pilot project on the U of T St. George campus.

The Urban Quick Stop serves as a mini hub for couriers on electric cargo bikes to retrieve and deliver packages to the surrounding areas, thus reducing the need for traditional courier delivery trucks. This results in a more sustainable approach to delivering and less traffic congestion.

Purolator shipping container and cargo bike
The Purolator Urban Quick Stop is the home of a new multidisciplinary collaboration between industry, academia and government that aims to explore innovative solutions to the challenges of last-mile delivery. (Photo: Tyler Irving, U of T Engineering

Our Urban Quick Stops and our partnership with the university is helping address challenges associated with last-mile delivery.

Additionally, the involvement of U of T graduate and undergraduate students in this project, and as part of Purolator Research Chair retained activities, has been invaluable. They have brought new ideas and perspectives, helping us continuously improve and innovate.

Khelil Khelil, Senior Manager of Applied Research and Innovation, Purolator

In partnership with the university, Purolator expects to achieve many sustainability benefits, including a reduction of approximately 5,800 km travelled per year on the U of T campus and neighbouring community roads. This translates into approximately 2.3 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. The project also reduces the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx), a pollutant that causes respiratory health problems, leading to measurable health impacts.

Purolator is most deserving to receive the Sustainable Action Award, as an outcome of their leadership toward making this project happen on the University of Toronto campus. It is a unique example of sustainability research ‘hitting the road’.

Matthew Roorda, U of T civil engineering professor and Canada Research Chair in Freight Transportation and Logistics

Purolator states that they are proud to partner with the University of Toronto and look forward to expanding their Urban Quick Stops across Canada in the future.

As their prize, Purolator received a plaque made out of honey locust wood reclaimed from the U of T Landmark Project. The inscription reads: “The University of Toronto Sustainability Office awards this Sustainable Action Award to Purolator Inc. in recognition of their extraordinary contributions to sustainability at the University of Toronto and in the community.”

The 2023 Adams Sustainability Celebration Innovation Prize pitch competition and award ceremony is supported by the donation of Wendy Adams.

man stands next to event banner holding wooden plaque.
Dr. Daniel Baron, Applied Research & Innovation Lead, Digital Lab, Purolator, poses with the U of T Sustainable Action Award, March 3, 2023, at Hart House. (Photo: Dr. Usman Ahmed)

Adams Sustainability Celebration Award Citation

Purolator, in partnership with University of Toronto, has established a successful e-cargo tricycle demonstration project. 

On August 22, 2022, Purolator replaced delivery trucks on the University of Toronto St. George campus, and in neighbouring communities, with e-cargo tricycles operating from a minihub located at 60 St. George Street.

This pilot is demonstrating the potential for e-cargo tricycle deliveries with potential expansion to other locations across Canada.  Purolator is now delivering more sustainably on campus, with reduced emissions, fewer cyclist conflicts, and truck driver health improvement. Gasoline powered trucks have been replaced by electric cargo tricycles, leading to measurable health impacts.

Courier trucks emit about 1.4 g of nitrogen oxides (NOx) per km, a pollutant which causes respiratory health problems.  The project results in an estimated reduction of 800 g of NOx annually from Purolator trucks. 

A long list of graduate and undergraduate students have been involved in research associated with this project.  These include women, Black and Muslim students, all under-represented groups in transportation and logistics.

U of T installed air quality sensors inside the cab and outside the cab of a Purolator truck. U of T found that drivers were exposed to a 25% higher rate of particulate matter (PM2.5) in the cabs of their trucks, which has been eliminated for e-cargo tricycle drivers.

In addition, truck traffic has been reduced by approximately 5800 km per year on campus and in the neighbouring communities. This translates into approximately 2.3 tonnes of CO2 emissions/year. 

The project is also an economic benefit for Purolator, since the cost of operating and maintaining the electric cargo bikes is significantly lower.

Aside from obvious benefits from zero emissions vehicles, safety improvements exist for cyclists on campus. Trucks in traffic and parked on the roadside create safety conflicts with cyclists, which have been virtually eliminated with e-cargo tricycles. 

They plan to expand the pilot to locations across Canada. 

Purolator has worked for years in partnership with University of Toronto, the City of Toronto, Pembina Institute, and their research funding was matched by City of Toronto, Region of Peel, and NSERC.  Two items required approval from Toronto City council (approval of electric cargo bikes over 120kg, and approval of a minihub on City of Toronto parking spots), which required a major advocacy effort.

Purolator is most deserving to receive the Sustainable Action Award, as an outcome of their leadership towards making this demonstration project happen on the University of Toronto campus. It is a unique example of sustainability research ‘hitting the road’.

With files from U of T Sustainability Office and Purolator Inc.