Posts Tagged ‘Subaru’

Getting To Zero Landfill

December 14, 2015

yellowstone mded

The National Parks have had a long-standing interest in implementing sustainability initiatives. In previous years, for example, the parks put into the place the “Healthy and Sustainable Food Initiative” by increasing the amount of locally sourced food at its concessionaires. In 2015, the Park Service decided to address a different sustainability challenge–the 100 million pounds of trash generated each year by park visitors. They have done this by cooperating with several organizations to make the National Parks Zero Landfill spaces. These organizations include Subaru, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the National Parks Foundation (I donate to the latter 2). Subaru is a logical partner for this effort due to its experience with its zero landfill factory in Lafayette, Indiana.

The program has begun with pilot projects at 3 iconic parks: Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Denali. These three parks alone account for 16.6 million pounds of waste annually. Of this amount, about 6.9 million pounds are diverted from the landfill–the question is how to keep the other 9.7 million pounds out of the landfill as well. The first step is for the National Parks Conservation Association to review the current practices in these parks in terms of recycling, composting, and waste reduction efforts. Subaru’s factory experts on “zero-landfill processes” will also visit these parks. The insight from these assessments will give the park service insights on how to reduce the amount of waste that needs to be landfilled, with the goal of zero waste at all being landfilled.

That is the goal, at least. Whether this effort will truly result in absolutely zero materials being sent to the landfill is an open question; however in all cases, the idea is to have the National Park Service send nothing, or almost nothing, to any landfill–first at these 3 parks, and then hopefully at all of the nearly 300 units in the National Park system.

The NPS Zero Landfill Program

What The Park Visitor Can Do

Subaru’s Zero Landfill Factory

Healthy and Sustainable Food at the National Parks

 

 

 

 

 

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Our New Car

October 23, 2012

When we were looking for a new car, I read with great interest a review that said “the VW Jetta SportWagen saved my life when I was T-boned.” Since my wife had herself been T-boned, this got our attention very quickly. She is now OK, but the car she used to drive, a trusty Subaru Impreza Outback Sport that she had loved, sacrificed its life in the process of saving hers. When we first starting looking for a replacement car, I was hoping she would prefer the most environmentally friendly hatchback that had good safety rating (represented by the Prius due to gas mileage). Ultimately, we ended up with something else. The something else was a VW Jetta SportWagen (regular gas engine, not the diesel).

Our first choice was the redesigned Impreza, but its relatively small trunk did not play nicely with our toddler’s stroller. So how did we arrive at the VW instead of the Prius? The answer for us, like many automobile buyers, is that gas mileage, while important, is not the only thing we looked for in buying the car. We absolutely wanted to improve the gas mileage over the old Impreza’s 22 mpg city to 27 mpg highway, so it was important. But other goals were important also. These included a hatchback, good safety ratings, ample storage, and ease of driving (being able to see clearly out of the car while driving). Being able to have the toddler seat in the middle of the car became surprisingly important also.

Underlying all of these factors was probably the most limiting one—price. Since we wanted the latest safety technology, we wanted a 2013 (or 2012) car if at all possible. We had a certain price target that we felt we could afford. The net result of that was a car in the low 20s, which put a number of models in the mid 20s out or range. Additionally, we ended up having a fairly limited time window to actually buy the car. Given where we were in the overall car market, we were thrilled to actually have 2 realistic options to choose from, a 2011 Prius and a 2013 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen. (We made an exception to our new car idea to include a used Prius, mostly for the gas mileage.)

Looking back, it is very interesting for me to realize that for the car purchase, I gave practically no consideration to the usual sustainability aspects that I have used for many other product purchase decisions. For example, I did not consider at all where the product was made. Nor did I concern myself with the environmental practices of the factory where the car was made. I recently found that a Toyota dealer in Allentown is actually LEED (green building) certified but LEED never entered my mind during this process. The most important factor in choosing which dealer got the deal was the price they offered me.

For this decision, gas mileage was the beginning and end of the consideration of the environmental aspects of the car. While gas mileage was on the list, it ended up not being as important as the combination of safety, visibility, and storage, toddler comfort, and most crucially, price. What ultimately swayed the decision was that my wife had loved her Impreza except for the mileage. It became apparent that the VW (Jetta SportWagen) had all of the advantages over the Prius (storage, visibility, ease of driving)—except for gas mileage. So we went for the VW (and settled for a 15%-20% improvement in gas mileage vs nearly 100%).

Given the market segment we were in, I should be happy we found something at least as good as the trusty, recently departed Impreza. Instead of being disappointed that the VW does not deliver the gas mileage of the Prius, I should be happy that it is delivering a similar driving experience to the old Impreza, with more storage for the toddler’s stuff and better gas mileage. I have no curent plans to replace my Subaru. But if I have to, I will be very curious what combination of price, storage, safety, and mileage both Subaru and VW can bring to the table. For that matter, I’ll be looking to see if any other brands have that combination as well.

Calling All Subies

September 30, 2010

Most discussion of the environmental impact of cars is focused around miles per gallon. In other words, the impact of a given car upon the environment occurs after the point of purchase. Automobiles do indeed produce significant environmental side effects simply by being used (for example, burning gas). But what about the process of production itself? What is happening before someone buys the car?

I happen to have a Subaru. I bought the car because my wife could see out of it, and I also enjoyed driving her Subaru. At the time, a given car’s manufacturing process was not a factor at all. But it turns out that the Subaru of Indiana Automotive Plant has a very impressive sustainability story to tell.

The most publicly notable achievement is its zero landfill status—that is, recycling just about everything they use. They are very proud of this. Zero landfill means that since May, 2006, the plant has sent nothing to the landfill. Put another way, I have sent more to the landfill with my weekly trash bag than the plant has.

However, there have been some other concrete results as well. For example, they saved over 100 pounds of steel per assembled car simply by reducing excess material in parts. They also implemented a “reverse logistics” system to send excess packaging back to Japan (Subaru is a Japanese company) to be reused. Suppliers take back other surplus packaging for re-use as well. Another hidden example is the primer under the paint. Before, they used to throw the excess away; now, they scrape off the excess, dump it into a bucket, and re-use it.

A couple of other non-typical aspects to the Subaru environmental story come to mind. The Indiana plant sits among 800 acres—many of which are actually part of a Backyard Wildlife Habitat (a program of the National Wildlife Federation). Also, Subaru sells a good number of PZEV—lower emission models throughout the United States, not just California.

All this raises the question of just precisely how does one measure how environmentally friendly a car is? What if the answer goes beyond miles per gallon?

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