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Bankrate's 2007 New Car Guide
Going green
Environmental concerns are bringing major changes -- right down to the cars we drive.
Going green
Automakers see green across their business

If you're environmentally conscious, chances are you've already considered buying a hybrid. But you don't have to stop there if you're thinking green when making your next automobile choice. Some manufacturers are adding additional environmentally friendly processes, materials and technologies to the auto manufacturing business.

Automakers are stepping up by:
Prioritizing environmental policies
Using recycled fabric seating
Developing 'zero landfill' policies
Reducing the amount of waste
Integrating the environment

Automakers are taking the environment into consideration more than ever before, says James Rubenstein, a professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and author of "Making and Selling Cars: Innovation and Change in the U.S. Automotive Industry."

Creating leadership roles
Environmentally friendly practices are taking place everywhere from boardrooms to assembly plants. In fact, several automakers have made key personnel appointments to oversee all environmental procedures in the company. For example, Ford Motor Co. recently created the position of "Senior Vice President of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering." That vice president will be "responsible for setting strategy, establishing goals and integrating sustainability across Ford Motor Co.," says Kristen Kinley, a spokeswoman for Ford.

Among the innovations at Ford: The 2008 Ford Escape and the Escape Hybrid both use fabric that is made from 100-percent recycled materials for their seating surfaces. According to Ford, the fabric can be made from anything that was intended for retail use but never actually made it to the consumer, whether it is unused plastics or polyester fibers. These fibers are then spun into yarn, dyed and woven into the vehicles' seat fabric. Along with allowing plastics and polyester to be reused, the process conserves an estimated 600,000 gallons of water, 1.8 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents and more than 7 million kilowatt hours of electricity, the company reports.

Zero landfill
Aside from using environmentally friendly materials, companies are also letting the environment play a part in their manufacturing processes. Subaru is one company whose environmentally friendly efforts can be seen in the assembly plants.

I like to tell people that you send more to a landfill every day from your home than we do as a company. -- Tom Easterday, senior vice president, Subaru of Indiana Automotive

Subaru of Indiana, which manufactures the Outback, Legacy and B9 Tribeca lines of vehicles, has been what is called a zero-landfill company since May 2004.

"We do not send anything from our manufacturing operation directly into a landfill," says Tom Easterday, senior vice president at Subaru of Indiana Automotive. "So I like to tell people that you send more to a landfill every day from your home than we do as a company."

So where is the company sending the materials it doesn't use if it's not sending them to landfills? "We started on a process of what we call the three R's -- reduce, reuse and recycle," Easterday says.

Since 2003, the company has reduced the amount of waste produced at the plant by 41 percent. Subaru of Indiana also has partnered with a number of its suppliers to reuse materials ranging from product packaging to engine caps.

A lot of the company's reuse efforts involved "talking to a supplier and saying, 'Can't you reuse this material?'" says Easterday. "Then they'd actually test to make sure it could be reused, and if it could, we figured out what kind of recycling we could do with that material."

-- Posted: Aug. 2, 2007
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