After a discouraging start, the Clean Air Action Plan of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has exceeded all expectations -- from business as well as environmental groups. In this week's feature story, The Journal of Commerce examines how these efforts are setting the example for ports nationwide.

When Los Angeles-Long Beach announced their Clean Air Action Plan three years ago, reaction from the business community was tepid, at best. The relationship soured as the ports' aggressive environmental programs scared cargo away and fostered an anti-business image. However, the ports' recently published air emissions inventories comparing harbor-generated pollution in 2008 with the 2005 baseline show the nation's most rigorous environmental standards have surpassed expectations.

An important message has emerged for other ports: Reducing your carbon footprint doesn't require massive investment. Indeed, Los Angeles-Long Beach's most significant gains in reduction over the past three years came not from exotic technologies, but from basic, readily available measures. And looking forward, costly reduction methods may become less necessary as vessels are built larger — promoting efficiency and economies of scale — and greener, decreasing per-unit pollution counts.