Automakers see green across their business
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
|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.
courtesy Ford Motor Co.
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.
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
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."