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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
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In 2006, Subaru of Indiana recycled 13,168 tons of materials, which ended up in such products as bicycle helmets, stuffing for beanbag chairs and road surfaces, Easterday says.

These environmental efforts also result in financial benefits for the company. Since the plant's reuse policies save its suppliers the cost of buying many new materials, those suppliers often pass back some of those savings.  

"We got kind of a green dividend," says Easterday, "where through an environmental project, you can actually save money and get an immediate return on it."

Top-down green strategy
The 454,000-square-foot living roof of foliage at Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant collects and filters rainfall, protects the roof's surface and insulates the building, saving the company up to 5 percent in heating and cooling costs.

Green profits
The financial benefit is an incentive for auto manufacturers to embrace environmental practices such as recycling and reusing materials, says Rubenstein.

"It's cheaper for them, and (auto manufacturers are) building it into the design process," says Rubenstein. "Historically, a manufacturer would do a redesign and then let the chips fall where they may in terms of what can be salvaged from the past model -- and the answer was very, very little. Now, it's at the table when the design team is getting together to start the next generation. One of the pieces at the table now is to use absolutely as much as possible from the last generation."

Companies are even integrating the environment into their workplaces. Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich., has a living roof: 454,000 square feet of foliage that collects and filters rainfall, while also protecting the roof's surface and insulating the building from heat and cold, saving the company up to 5 percent in heating and cooling costs.

A number of environmentally friendly procedures, including the recycling of glass windshields, led the California Integrated Waste Management Board in February to honor Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. with its "Waste Reduction Awards Program of the Year." Since the program began in August 2006, Toyota has recycled 11 tons of glass windshields. Other Toyota initiatives included the announcement of a Think Green! program in January, with the goal of achieving zero-landfill status at the company's Torrance, Calif., headquarters. According to the company, the Think Green! program will eliminate the emission of 1,000 tons of greenhouse gases each year.

Recycling: How far can it go?
Will there ever be a day when an entire car can be recycled?

"Using recycled materials and having a car be recyclable -- those are different issues," says Erich Merkle, an analyst with auto consulting company IRN Inc., in Grand Rapids, Mich. But that's not stopping industry leaders from trying. The United States Council for Automotive Research's Vehicle Recycling Partnership, which consists of researchers from automakers DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors, is researching ways to recycle all materials, no matter their sources.

While automakers face more pressure to find environmentally friendly fuels than they do to use environmentally friendly materials and processes, companies such as Toyota, Subaru and Ford aren't likely to ease their efforts anytime soon.

"It's become a matter of best practices," Rubenstein says. "I can't say everyone is doing it with every model, but for the market leaders this is now well-embedded as part of their industry-leading best practices."

-- Posted: Aug. 2, 2007
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