Putting oyster power to work to help save the U.S. Gulf Coast

The Nature Conservancy’s Seth Blitch discusses the oyster reef project with Mary Chandler, Vice President – Community Relations and Corporate Responsibility, and Zach Gillen, General Manager -- Sales & Service North America.

Corporate Responsibility Director Travis Meek was aware of oysters’ amazing ability to filter out pollutants when he visited a company-supported oyster reef project in Louisiana earlier this month.

Meek says until he saw it first-hand, however, he didn’t fully appreciate the other environmental benefits from The Nature Conservancy’s three-mile oyster reef restoration project underway along the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge in Calcasieu Lake.

"I wasn’t as well informed about the benefits they provide with respect to controlling erosion along the coast,” said Meek, who oversees Cummins Water Works and visited the project along with six other Cummins leaders Nov. 3.

“Louisiana is losing shoreline at a rate of 75 square kilometers per year, which is faster than anywhere on earth,” he said. “While the reefs are only one of many needed solutions, they significantly slow the rate of erosion where they’ve been built.”

Leaders wade to see the restoration project up close
Cummins leaders wade into Calcasieu Lake to see the oyster reef restoration project up close. 


Cummins Water Works is the company initiative to address the global water crisis by partnering with leading water experts and investing and engaging in sustainable, large scale, high impact water projects. Earlier this year, Cummins Water Works announced a $3 million, multi-year grant to The Nature Conservancy to restore water resources in the Mississippi River Basin in the United States.

The Nature Conservancy’s effort is focused both on the upper and lower reaches of the basin. The Wabash River watershed, which includes Cummins’ headquarters in Columbus, Indiana, is the single largest contributor of excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizer to the Mississippi River Basin.

These excess nutrients not only pollute drinking water systems in the Midwest, but also contribute to an extensive dead zone, roughly the size of Massachusetts, in the Gulf of Mexico along the Louisiana-Texas coastline. The pollutants choke marine life, jeopardize the region’s fisheries and hamper recreation and tourism. 

The project is working with farmers in the Midwest on the benefits of adopting more sustainable farming practices like cover crops during the winter and no-till farming to reduce the runoff of excess nutrients. A team of Cummins employees recently worked with The Nature Conservancy to reintroduce mussels in parts of the upper watershed to clean and filter water before it reaches the gulf.


Oyster reefs do much the same thing, serving as one of nature’s most efficient filtration systems, according to Seth Blitch, The Nature Conservancy’s Conservation Director in Louisiana. Blitch led the Cummins’ team on their tour of the project.

He said a healthy, one-acre reef can filter approximately 24 million gallons of water each day. Oyster reefs can also serve as natural buffers against rising sea levels from climate change as well as storm events.

The reefs form living shorelines that protect the adjacent coastal wetlands by dampening wave energy that would otherwise cause erosion. They also provide a critical habitat for marine life, contributing to the economic success of fisheries in the gulf.

The Nature Conservancy has so far restored over seven miles of oyster reefs, establishing an impressive coalition behind the work, which started in 2010. Supporters include the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, adjacent landowners and private donors and corporations contributing money to the effort.

Phase III of the project, which extends the reef for about a mile, was constructed in July and August. Blitch said The Nature Conservancy was able to significantly expand the scope of its original plan with Cummins’ support.


Cummins’ leaders making the trip included Vice Chairman Tony Satterthwaite and Mary Chandler, Vice President – Community Relations and Corporate Responsibility. After a short boat ride, the leaders put on waders and made their way through knee-high water to observe the reefs up close.

Cummins leaders Zach Gillen and Brian Mormino learn about the environmental benefits possible by restoring oyster reefs.
Cummins leaders Zach Gillen (left) and Brian Mormino (right) learn about the environmental benefits possible from restoring oyster reefs.

The reefs are constructed using wire baskets called gabions filled with limestone placed close to the shoreline to ensure the bulk of any erosion from wave action doesn’t get far. The baskets are tall enough so the reef that forms can’t be buried by sediment.

Over time, oysters cluster on the baskets and fuse together, creating rock-like reefs that provide habitat for other marine life. The oysters in the project are protected by law and cannot be harvested.

“I was really surprised by how quickly new reefs can be implemented,” said Zach Gillen, General Manager – Cummins Sales and Service North America. “Large reef extensions can take place in less than a year and they are definitely making a difference.”

Brian Mormino, Cummins’ Executive Director – Technical & Environmental Systems, said the trip left him with a renewed appreciation for the knowledge and dedication of The Nature Conservancy, and the complexity of the challenge moving forward.

The effort has stakeholders extending some 800 miles from north to south in occupations ranging from farming to shipping and commercial fishing. The initiative is further complicated by  flooding to the north and hurricanes to the south. 

“It’s one thing to know about a challenge and another to see it,” Mormino said. “I think the trip strengthened our commitment to what we’re doing, and our desire to do more.”

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. [email protected]


Cummins emphasizes STEM in global celebrations of International Day of the Girl

President and CEO Jennifer Rumsey tours the Columbus Engine Plant with students from Brown County High School.

Cummins Inc. employees around the world commemorated the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl earlier this month with virtual and in-person events to highlight the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education.

STEM education naturally integrates critical thinking and language skills that enrich a child’s education. Yet more can be done to make STEM accessible to more girls globally and provide diverse representation.

Each of Cummins’ key regions hosted activities the week of Oct. 10, many of which incorporated employees’ children or connected them with students in the community. One young girl in India who participated in a Cummins event said, “Today was another step in getting to know myself better and what I want for my future.”

Research indicates that girls with role models in STEM are 1.4 times more likely to pursue opportunities in these fields. All the Cummins events were designed to encourage more girls to pursue STEM careers. For example:

  • In Beijing, China, more than 2,000 Cummins employees participated in delivering STEM educational programs to young female students. Nathan Stoner, Vice President of the China Area Business Organization for Cummins, gave an opening speech. The local Community Involvement Team launched a virtual STEM course for primary school students located thousands of kilometers away.
  • In San Luis Potosi, Mexico, 110 Cummins employees held a STEM fair for 300 students from five nearby schools. Together with two nonprofits, they provided STEM experiments, Lego builds, robotics information, a research and development tour, virtual reality experiences and testimonials from female Cummins engineers.
  • At several sites in Brazil, more than 100 Cummins employees offered plant tours to almost 300 children and teenagers so they could see female workers playing important roles in technical areas. Women in the technical field talked about their careers and highlighted the importance of STEM education for women and girls. They also participated in STEM activities, such as programming and robotics.
  • In Zambia, more than 250 students from a local secondary school participated in a STEM engagement session with Cummins employees.  

In Cummins’ headquarters community of Columbus, Indiana (U.S.), President and CEO Jennifer Rumsey (photo above) joined several Cummins employees in meeting with 15 high school students from nearby Brown County. Together they visited the company’s Columbus Engine Plant, touring the battery assembly line and saw a Cummins electric test truck.

They also toured the Additive Manufacturing lab, which produces 3D-printed metal parts. The day helped expose the students to a wide range of STEM opportunities within Cummins – from manufacturing associates, research and development lab technicians, service engineering, technical administrative associates, trainers and more. 

The team talked about the challenging and interesting careers in these areas and that starting a STEM career doesn’t require a college degree, as apprenticeships and two-year degrees are common.

 “It was great to be able to spend the day with young girls interested in STEM and to show them what manufacturing entails here at Cummins,” said Hayley McMahan, Senior Manufacturing Engineer at Cummins.

 “One of the things I love most about my job is being able to share my experience with other women to empower and encourage them to get involved in manufacturing,” she added. “Events like these are what will help increase the female workforce in manufacturing!”

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

CEO builds support for strategy to address climate and other challenges

President and CEO Jennifer Rumsey speaks at the 2022 IAA Transportation show on the environmental benefits in Cummins products.

Cummins Inc.’s new Chief Executive Officer urged employees to be advocates for the company’s environmental sustainability strategy, maintaining it is integral to the global power leader’s business strategy and future success.

Speaking at a recent virtual town hall meeting to some 2,000 Cummins employees, President and Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Rumsey said PLANET 2050, the company’s environmental sustainability strategy, is crucial to achieving Cummins’ mission of powering a more prosperous world. 

In addition to helping customers, investors, employees and other stakeholders achieve prosperity, a more prosperous world includes “our planet and protecting this planet for future generations,” Rumsey said.

“This sustainability plan takes a long-term lens and looks at what Cummins needs to do as a part of our mission, as a part of our responsibility, and how we grow our business at the same time,” the Cummins leader added.


PLANET 2050, established in 2019, has three focus areas: addressing climate change, using natural resources in the most sustainable way and ensuring communities are better because of Cummins’ presence. 

The strategy has nine goals timed to 2030, including goals to reduce water use and waste as well as science-based targets aligned to the Paris Climate Accords to limit global temperature rise to no more than 1.5°C. PLANET 2050 also includes the aspiration to power customer success exclusively with carbon neutral technologies by the year 2050. 

Destination Zero, developed in 2021, is the company’s approach to decarbonizing Cummins’ products and achieving that aspiration. It calls for advancing no-carbon technologies such as battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cells for customers who are ready, while reducing the carbon produced by Cummins’ core platforms such as internal combustion engines. 

The company, for example is bringing to market internal combustion engines fueled by hydrogen, as well as fuel agnostic engines offering the benefits of a common-base architecture that can be optimized for a particular low- or no-carbon fuel.


Rumsey, who was named CEO in July, described PLANET 2050 as the umbrella covering not only Destination Zero but a third initiative – Cummins Water Works, the company’s global strategic program to strengthen communities through sustainable water and addressing the global water crisis.

Launched in July 2021, the initiative partners with leading water experts to develop and invest in sustainable, large scale, high-impact water projects. Cummins Water Works aims to bring fresh water to 20 million people who would otherwise not have it. The effort already has projects underway in six countries – Brazil, Chile, India, Mexico, South Africa and the United States.

Cummins Water Works aligns particularly well with PLANET 2050 in two ways. First, the program helps offset the water the company uses at its facilities around the world, addressing the PLANET 2050 aspiration to have a net positive impact in every community where Cummins operates, and employees live and work, also by 2050.

In addition, Cummins Water Works tackles a common consequence of climate change – drought and water scarcity.


Fortunately, Cummins has a long history of working to protect and preserve the environment and strengthen communities. Rumsey noted the company’s emphasis on building stronger communities goes back to J. Irwin Miller, who played a leadership role at the company from the 1940s to his death in 2004, including more than two decades as Chairman.

Brian Mormino, Executive Director of Technical and Environmental Systems, joined Rumsey at the Sept. 28 event and noted while many companies are establishing their first greenhouse gas reduction goals, Cummins’ first goal dates back to 2006.

“Our commitment to the environment goes back many decades and just gets stronger,” Mormino said.

The challenging goals and aspirations in PLANET 2050, however, cannot be achieved without strong support and engagement from Cummins employees, Mormino and Rumsey said. They urged employees to join the PLANET 2050 Influencer Program, an effort to create employee advocates for PLANET 2050.

“All of us are part of shaping this,” Rumsey said of the company’s environmental strategy. “…Our success comes from all of you, your innovative ideas, your creativity, your problem solving. Your commitment to the work you are doing is ultimately what will make us successful.”

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. [email protected]


Community recycling days draw big crowds, and tons of stuff

Volunteers clear a truck of electronic equipment at the Columbus Engine Plant’s Community Recycling Day.

Community recycling days over the summer at two of Cummins Inc.’s larger U.S. plants collectively emptied more than 2,000 vehicles of an estimated 140 tons of electronics, batteries, tires, used paint, old lightbulbs and more.

The separate events at Cummins’ Jamestown Engine Plant (JEP) in Jamestown, New York, and the company’s Columbus Engine Plant (CEP) in Columbus, Indiana, also attracted plenty of people, some waiting as long as three hours for their chance to safely rid themselves of material they had been holding onto, sometimes for years.

“It was really good to be able to have the Community Recycling Day at CEP once again,” said CEP Plant Manager Kyle Lewandowski. “It has been a couple of years since this event was held due to COVID. It gives people within the community an outlet to dispose of things they have around the house that are typically difficult to get rid of safely. It also provides a lot of opportunities for people around the community to volunteer, and that’s what makes the event so fun and successful.”


The Jamestown event was held June 18, while the Columbus community recycling day took place Sept. 15. It was the first such event at CEP in two years because of COVID-19. JEP didn’t have its event in 2020 because of the pandemic but was able to conduct a recycling day in 2021.

Both events this year happened under sunny skies, lending a festive atmosphere to the efforts.

“We had people lining up at 5:30 a.m. and our event didn’t start until 9 (a.m.),” said Loren Chase, Health, Safety and Environment Leader at the Jamestown plant. “I don’t know if they got the time wrong or just enjoyed seeing the whole thing come to life.”

Taken together, the events involved nearly 200 volunteers, working in concert with partners capable of safely handling hard-to-recycle items like waste paints and electronics. The Columbus event also got a helping hand from more than 40 National Honor Society volunteers from Columbus East High School in addition to volunteers from Cummins.

Older television sets showed up at both events.
Yes, older TVs are still out there and they can be difficult to recycle. This one showed up at the recycling day at the Columbus Engine Plant.


Organizers said the days brought out some unexpected items.

“One of the things that got my attention and the attention of many of our volunteers was the number of old TVs we saw with the cathode-ray tubes,” said David Wehrkamp, Health, Safety and Environment Leader at the Columbus Engine Plant. “There were some of the big heavy ones with the wood paneling. I didn’t think people still had them, but they do.”

While perhaps amusing, the old TVs underscore the importance of events like the ones in Columbus and Jamestown. Older TVs with cathode-ray tubes typically hold lead, cadmium-based phosphorus, and other toxic chemicals that make them potentially dangerous and hard to recycle. Many places in the United States charge a fee for handling them, but the recycling and cleanup days at both plants took them at no-cost.

The same kind of thing can be true for waste oils, paints and other liquids as well as tires. While both events depend on volunteer labor, they also involve significant costs that both locations cover through various means. 


Government leaders say community recycling days serve an important purpose as part of the three R’s of waste management – reduce, reuse and recycle – to limit what ends up at landfills, incinerators and other means of waste disposal.

The Jamestown Engine Plant Recycling Day drew big crowds in 2022.
Community members began lining up at 5:30 a.m. for the Jamestown Engine Plant's Recycling Day on June 18.

“There is value in all unwanted items we accumulate in our homes,” said Tracy “T.J.” Pierce, Solid Waste Analyst for the Chautauqua County Division of Solid Waste in Jamestown. “…The community cleanup days organized by Cummins provide our communities an awesome opportunity to remove unwanted items from people’s lives and accumulate them in one place where they can be efficiently sorted and delivered to the recycling industry to extract that value.” 

Given they provide people the chance to do the right thing and save money, it’s no wonder the JEP and CEP recycling days, each now more than a decade old, are extremely popular.

“We get people calling months ahead of time asking, ‘when is the cleanup day?’” said David Burlee, JEP’s Machining Director of Operations and the longtime leader of the Jamestown event until handing that responsibility to Chase this year. “It’s great to be part of something people feel so strongly about.” 

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. [email protected]


Cummins plant receives Indiana governor's environmental excellence award

Engineers Clarissa Arriaga and Ashwini Khandelwal led the no-paint initiative

Cummins Inc.'s Columbus Mid-Range Engine Plant (CMEP) has received a 2022 Indiana Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for a project resulting in the plant no longer painting 6.7-liter diesel engines with a clear coating before they leave the facility.

The award was presented Wednesday (Sept. 21) during the state’s 25th Annual Pollution Prevention Conference in Indianapolis. The plant’s effort not only significantly reduces the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), but also cuts the water, soap and chemicals used to clean the engines, as well as the energy used to dry engines after they are painted.

Cummins was one of six groups honored at the event, joining businesses, school systems, public private partnerships and other groups in receiving the award this year.

Reducing VOCs is one of the 2030 goals included in PLANET 2050, Cummins’ environmental sustainability strategy. The strategy establishes the goal of reducing VOCs from paint and coating operations by 50% over the next decade, in addition to goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), water use and waste production. Other goals include creating a lifecycle plan for every part and recycling 100% of packaging plastics.

Cummins employees gather after receiving the 2022 Indiana Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence in Indianapolis.
Cummins employees gather after the ceremony where the Columbus Mid-Range Engine Plant received a 2022 Indiana Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence in Indianapolis.


Plant Manager Nicole Wheeldon credits two engineers at CMEP with conducting a two-year validation investigation that determined the lack of clear coating, which consumed about 260 gallons of paint per week, would not make the engines more susceptible to corrosion.

Senior Industrial Engineer Clarissa Arriaga and Current Product Senior Engineer Ashwini Khandelwal found most engine parts were either already made of corrosive-resistant materials or had some kind of treatment prior to assembly. The benefit of painting was largely degraded by the time the Cummins engine was installed at the customer’s facility and then left that facility for the next stop on its journey.

The award is another chapter in the rich history of the plant, which was built in 1971 largely below ground level with parking on the roof to better integrate with the surrounding nature. Wildlife has been known to walk up and peer through CMEP’s windows.

Arriaga and Khandelwal are pleased they could contribute to creating a more sustainable product.

“In today’s world we need to do whatever we can to make our engines the cleanest technology possible,” Khandelwal said.


But the two engineers, as well as Plant Manager Wheeldon, all emphasize the benefits extend beyond the environment. There is a cost-savings with no longer painting the engines for both the company and the customer. The change also frees up valuable space in the plant for other uses, and allows the employees in the painting operation to be re-assigned to other more important tasks.

The change, which went into effect in the fourth quarter of 2021, also eliminated something of a bottleneck in the plant when engines had to be cleaned, painted and dried.

“It was a win any way you look at it: environmentally, financially, productivity, and quality,” Arriaga said.

Little changes when end users open up the hood. They will continue to see a small vanity plate with the Cummins logo on top of the powerful 6.7-liter engine. 

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. [email protected]


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