Turning over  a new Leaf ILLUSTRATION: Jason Crosby

Turning over a new Leaf

Carmakers should be commended for making recycling and carbon reduction priorities

By Jennifer Hadley 01/13/2011

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Igive GM, specifically Chevrolet, a lot of flak, and I know it. They’ve made some epically bad decisions in my eyes, most recently in applying to trademark the term “Range Anxiety.” I’ve also heckled them for mandating that their employees refer to the company only as Chevrolet, in lieu of Chevy. And then, of course, I’ve more or less called the company a bald-faced liar for trying to sell me on the fact that the Volt is the wave of the future. 
But I’m not above commending companies for doing something good, and it appears that GM and Chevrolet have some terrifically good intentions for 2011.
First, they’ve launched a new initiative for reducing carbon dioxide emissions (aka greenhouse gases) by 8 million metric tons over the next five years. According to their new Web site, chevycarbonreduction.com, this will be accomplished through three strategic investments. The first will include retrofitting and weatherizing buildings to improve energy efficiency. The next involves the company investing in renewable energy sources (think wind farms and solar power). Finally, Chevrolet is committing to planting loads of trees over the next five years.
My favorite part of their plan? All of these initiatives are designed to benefit communities right here in America. While the specific details aren’t available yet, on the new site Chevrolet says in no uncertain terms that these investments will be to the benefit of American cities and towns exclusively, with an emphasis on helping communities and schools become more energy efficient. They will do this by partnering with the nonprofit Bonneville Environmental Foundation, b-e-f.org. Incidentally, if you can’t be bothered to read, Chevrolet has also posted multiple videos on YouTube.com explaining their strategy (including one really kind of adorable cartoon video). 
To boot, Chevrolet’s parent company, General Motors, is also on board to become more energy efficient through “creative recycling,” according to Mike Robinson, GM’s vice president of environment, energy and safety. Indeed, GM is being creative and since June has been collecting hundreds of miles of oil booms that were used to contain the oil spill in the Gulf. They intend to recycle the plastic to use it in making cars. Initially, the recycled plastic will be used mostly for the Volt, (to make the shrouds that cover the radiator). However, because of the sheer volume of plastic collected (estimated to be 100,000 pounds), it is expected that the recycled plastic will be used on other GM cars in the future.  GM intends to continue collecting the booms well into 2011.  
I’ve got to hand it to both GM and Chevrolet. They’re taking initiative to help our environment.  They are helping make the best of a terrible situation in the Gulf by ensuring that that plastic doesn’t wind up in a landfill, taking years and years to breakdown. That’s commendable. And so is the fact that GM has announced that to date half of their factories are now landfill free. 
So, it is possible for even a cynic like me to recognize these efforts. And I sure hope to see more proactive resolutions such as these all year long.

Contact Jennifer Hadley at jmhadley624@yahoo.com.

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