GM grabbed the spotlight in the sustainable vehicle field last year when its newly launched gas-electric Chevy Volt was named Motor Trend's North American Car of the Year, and the company has been taking some solid steps to back up its green cred by improving conservation programs at its facilities. GM already has a landfill-free program in effect at 76 manufacturing sites, and now GM is expanding its landfill-free policy to non-manufacturing sites such as customer care facilities and aftersales operations.
With landfill costs rising and the market for recycled materials growing, GM's focus on landfill-free operations makes good bottom line sense. More to the point, the market for low-emission vehicles is bound to get blisteringly hot in the near future, as low-emission technology becomes more affordable while gas prices rise, and the Obama administration continues to work with private sector partners in wiring the U.S. for EV charging stations and upgrading the electrical grid. In this regard, establishing a strong green identity in the aftermarket, as well as in the manufacturing chain, can help a company build customer loyalty and gain an edge over the competition.
GM and Landfill-Free Operations
In addition to its landfill-free factories, GM now lists ten non-manufacturing sites that use a variety of strategies to manage the waste steam, including reuse, recycling, composting and waste-to-energy conversion. One example that it cites is the Customer Care and Aftersales facility in Burton, Michigan, where some packaging is made from cornstarch-based compostable foam. New technology that separates cardboard from wooden shipping pallets also enabled the company to divert more waste from landfills while earning about $20,000 per month from recycling.
Facilities that Build Customer Pride
For consumers who value sustainability, driving a low-emission car is just the start of a close engagement with the entire lifecycle of the product. GM demonstrates how a manufacturer can engage its customers on a variety of different levels. Going land-fill free is one important area. Another is the use of alternative energy, which GM is developing at its facilities including a solar array at GM factory near Baltimore, and a landfill gas-powered GM factory. GM's Lansing Delta Township Assembly Plant in Michgan boasts LEED gold status for a variety of conservation measures including 75 acres of designated wildlife habitat (GM is a member of the Wildlife Habitat Council.
Partnering with Green Powerhouses
GM is also cementing its sustainability cred by hooking up with GE, another company with a strong and growing green identity. The two companies have been collaborating on an energy efficiency program based on the simple but highly effective concept of synchronizing factory conveyor belt cycles with lighting and other equipment. Look for more multi-level engagements by GM and other companies that use clean tech, conservation and environmental responsibility to gain an edge over their competitors, leaving scant room in the picture for the fossil fuel industry.
Image credit: Chevy Volt by Tom Raftery on flickr.com.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.