Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday Series- The Eco-Elitist- Amazing Subaru

With so much negative news about GM and Chrysler and American car companies in general, I thought it was time in my Eco-Elitist series to talk about Subaru- a car company that does amazing things. I rarely hear or read about them in the news. Yes, a car company that does good things. It shocked me too when I heard about it but the story is incredible. For those of you who are frustrated that so many people are just too set in their ways to change or say that it just cost too much money or it is just too difficult, go this link, scroll down to the middle of the page and click on link that says "Video: Learn more about the Subaru Plant." It's a comprehensive overview of why the American Subaru plant is so incredible. It will bring tears to your eyes- I know I'm a bit weird. But really, check it out. When I hear about truly innovative ideas that encourages change to tired, old systems that also saves resources, creates less waste AND saves money- it just about makes me cry. What is so cool about the video is how excited, positive and more importantly proud the workers at Subaru are to be a part of such a terrific initiative.

Subaru of America is a "wholly-owned subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd." of Japan. They are headquartered in Cherry Hill, NJ. The American subsidiary markets and distributes all-wheel drive Subaru vehicles, parts and accessories.

The Subaru plant in Lafayette, Indiana (SIA) is a zero-landfill waste facility. Zero. Yes, I said Zero. The trash that you put in your garbage this morning after breakfast is more than they send to a landfill in a year. Nothing from this manufacturing facility goes into a landfill. If they cannot recycle it, they reuse- again and again. Watch the video- it's incredible. You see them discussing what to do with their kitchen grease and shredding tires for the "flooring" of playgrounds. Every year, SIA recycles 99.3% of excess or leftover steel, plastic, wood, paper, glass and other materials. What's left is shipped to Indianapolis and incinerated to help generate steam. In 2006, SIA recycled:
  • 11,411 tons of scrap metal (13,142 tons in 2007)
  • 1537 tons of cardboard and paper
  • 963 tons of wood
They calculated that these savings are equal to conserving 31,040 mature trees, 31,572 cubic yards of landfill space, 711,631 gallons of oil and 10,759,000 gallons of water! Whew!

In the video they mention that by being smarter about they way they cut and use steel, they have reduced the number of steel coils they purchases by 425 coils. Of course, steel producers consume a lot of energy (while emitting harmful CO2). They calculate that by reducing their steel consumption, they saved enough energy to power 2233 homes! In the video, they also talk about packaging and ways that they can reduce or reuse it (styrofoam and plastic packaging is one of my biggest pet-peeves). They have organized a system that allows them to separate and organize all the styrofoam pieces in bins to then be returned to Japan to be used over and over again. Pretty smart, huh?

Now, if a $1.2 billion dollar facility that will produce roughly 165,000 cars this year, with over 2700 employees can achieve these amazing goals. We can send our cans, paper, glass and plastic to the curb to recycle, can't we?

Another note, since 2003, Subaru has been producing Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles (PZEV) which meets California's Super-Ultra-Low-Emission vehicle exhaust standard. "Gasoline vehicles meeting these standards can have even lower emissions than hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles." Subaru cars are also U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified SmartWay Vehicles and are honored in the EPA's Green Vehicle Guide located at www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/Index.do"

And, they also ran a "Share the Love" campaign from November 24th to January 2nd that allowed consumers to donate $250 of their car purchase to one of 5 charities. They handed over checks that totaled $4.6 million dollars to these 5 charities that included: the National Wildlife Federation, Meals on Wheels Association of America, Boys and Girls Scouts of America, Habitat for Humanity and the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Yes, we just bought a Subaru Outback (in Jan 09) and chose the National Wildlife Federation. I must admit I made fun of my husband's choice at first since I know he has a secret desire to live in Vermont to hike in the summer and ski all day in the winter (Subaru is the car of Vermont). An outdoor Vermont life is certainly not a bad life of course (and maybe he'll fulfill that dream one day) but the more I learned about Subaru, the more I loved what they stand for and what they've accomplished. In America, we have so many choices when we purchase something, it feels so good to know that one's money is supporting an excellent company.

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