What an AMAZING interview w/Tom Easterday, Executive VP of Subaru of IN Autormotive!! As you all know, I LOVE my Subaru Imprezza and the Subaru plant in IN was part of the reason I even looked at a Subaru as my next car...This plant, in Lafayette IN, was built in 1987-8 and was one of the first in North America to implement eco-friendly/GREEN principles to the BEGINNING of the life-cycle of cars, not just the MIDDLE (i.e. hybrids, electric...) part.
(I need to state that my opinion of "greening" the auto industry MUST start at the manufacturing level. That it isn't enough to "offer a hybrid" or an "electric car" (think of the cost to produce the electricity & the stress on the electrical grid!) but to look at the MANUFACTURING process to truly make a difference in pollution, energy efficiency & cost savings).
When discussing Life-Cycle of anything you must first define what the "life-cycle" is for the particular item industry. For the auto industry it is:
***Check out this article in Science Friday that explanis more on the plant***
Tom Easterday was an incredibly entertaining, knowledgable & informative guest who presented the material in an easy-to-understand manner to those of us who are totally clueless on the manufacturing process of cars. (kudos!). From the "cookie cutter" analogy for the blanking machines that cut out the car pieces out of steel to his descriptions of how they recycle steel & oil...it really helped to understand the magnitude of cost savings (and CO2 emissions) that can be achieved by simple REDUCTION of materials used. This 800+ acre plant actually sits on land that the National Wildlife Federation conservancy site. There are 22 deer, LOTS of rabbits & a Blue Heron sanctuary in the middle of their test track (which is the 2nd largest in IN-do you know the 1st?). Who wouldn't want to go to work in a setting like that?
***SIA actually sends back to Japan ALL of the packing material for transmissions for them to be REUSED over & over again. Now while you think this may be "too expensive" sending styrafoam back & forth, it isn't! If you REUSE it 6+ times-average has been up to 14!- SIA has saved over $1M & that's not including the savings to the environment in the manufacturing of the styrafoam that doesn't have to be made***
SIA has hosted other manufacturers from other industries for them to implement Subaru's initiatives into THEIR factories. From recycling packaging materials, steel, oil, paper/cardboard & soda cans (!) to implementing energy efficient lighting & HVAC systems the eco-friendly initiatives literally pay for themselves almost immediately!
SIA was awarded ISO 14000 certification in 1998, and achieved their Net Zero Landfill goal 4 years early! (2004).
***Tom made a point of stating that you must go in ORDER of the 3 R's to really make an impact: REDUCE what you consume (this includes packing of what you BUY), REUSE what you can (which includes restoring items, donating) and RECYCLING what you can. Read more about this at Subaru & the Earth.***
While Subaru doesn't yet make a convertible :( they do have an electric car, currently available in Japan, and some of the cars here in the US are available as hybrids (Outback). Subaru's autos have been rated by Consumer Reports as having some of the Best Resale Values (all models) and this past year alone Subaru sales are up 41%. The Outback (2010 car of the year in its class) is up 128% and the Legacy is up 87%..amazing numbers for an industry that is definitely shifting.
Another hallmark of Subaru is their involvement in the community, particularly the STARS program that they instituted locally in IN. (STARS: students & teachers achieving recycling success) This program offers tours of the factory & grant money to those student/teachers that make a difference through their environmental efforts. And we are all familiar by now with the end of year promotion that Subaru has offered in the $250 donation to 1 of 5 charities when you purchase a new car.
***While I LOVE my Imprezza & Subaru as a company, I encourage you all to look at all your options & find a car & company that fits your lifestyle & values. Subaru fits me & my lifestyle. (total disclosure)***
I encourage you to read more about Subaru & their net-zero landfill! Learn how you can incorporate some of what they do at the plant in your home! (How did you like Tom's statement that if you threw away any type of packaging with your breakfast that YOU threw away more trash than the ENTIRE plant! yikes).
Here is an article I wrote on Car Feng Shui for your enjoyment as well.