JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Sustainability is about more than just cars for automaker Toyota. It’s about embracing new technology. Toyota is, it says, creating more ways for vehicles to move safely, responsibly, ”and in harmony with the environment”.
The Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 claims to provide a comprehensive ”road-map” to achieving the core goals. They are:
- Eliminate vehicle CO2 emissions by more than 90% from 2010 levels
- Go beyond tail-pipe emissions to eliminate CO2 in the entire life cycle of the vehicle
- Eliminate CO2 emissions from our operations
- Minimise and optimise our water usage
- Help to create a recycling-based society to reduce or eliminate the need for landfills and the pollution associated with them
- Support biodiversity and operate in harmony with nature
Kevin Butt, Toyota’s general manager for environmental sustainability, told The Corner in a media release: “We have an obligation to reduce our carbon footprint but also an obligation to do what’s right for humanity.”
So, from reducing energy and water consumption to educating the next generation, these are five ways Toyota is hoping to evolve its business for a more sustainable future…
1 Preserving our national parks with old car batteries
REDUCING CO2 emissions from vehicles has, Toyota says, long been a priority. A low-carbon future includes hybrid technology, improving fuel-efficiency, prioritising electrification: Toyota and Lexus have 15 advanced-technology vehicles on the market (North America).
However, the company adds putting that many electric cars on the road will creating a new waste product – worn-out propulsion batteries. Toyota’s solution: Find a way to re-purpose degraded batteries. For instance, Toyota is using depleted Toyota Camry hybrid Ni-MH (Nickel-Metal Hydride) batteries to store power collected from a solar array at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch in Yellowstone National Park
The site had been using propane and diesel to run generators when solar could not produce enough. “We don’t want power lines running through Yellowstone,” Butt says. “I don’t think there’s a more pristine, or beautiful, place on the planet.
”It makes you appreciate why we’re trying to do all this.”
2 Establishing recyclable water systems
ACCORDING to the US’ EPA, the average American family uses more than 1100 litres per day at home. Butt again: “Water is one pillar of the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 – a critical resource for our company to which we are committed.”
As part of that commitment, Toyota says it’s set goals focused on water conservation:
- Eliminate water waste by establishing systems with 100% recycled or re-used water
- Spread the word about conservation to communities and non-profit organisations
- Help Toyota’s major suppliers to adopt the same goals
Toyota’s new North American headquarters in Plano, Texas, was deemed a great place to start….
”We installed a rain-harvesting system that at the time of installation was the largest commercial system in the US. The bottom line? Toyota’s North American manufacturing plants recycled or reused 560 240 000 litres of water in 2018 – enough for 1350 American families for a year.”
3. Teaching a ‘recycle-first’ mindset
RECYCLING is a habit that takes time to instil. For some it’s a challenge to remember to do so. However, the use of raw materials – boxes, plastic wrapping, disposables such as coffee-cups, and straws – has increased at about twice the rate of the population through the past century.
Toyota is promoting a recycle-first mindset with this plan:
- Conserving natural resources by increasing the use of sustainable materials
- Extending the life of vehicle parts
- Eliminating waste disposal by re-using and recycling.
- Sharing our insights with others.
Such action has taken hold at Toyota facilities around the world: for instance, a team at Toyota’s Indiana (US) assembly plant significantly reduced the use raw materials by decreasing the amount of PVC sprayed on Sienna vehicle underbodies and so saving 11 000kg a year of spray.
4. Promoting biodiversity in North America
TO PROMOTE LIVING in harmony with nature in North America,Toyota is working to protect species, conserve habitats, and share our insights with partners and local communities. First, the automaker is taking care of its own back yard: it has more than 4000 square kilometres set aside across 12 sites under conservation programmes certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council.
That include grasslands, wild-flower meadows, pollinator gardens. and forests.
Toyota is also helping to preserve areas such as the Galapagos Islands, 800km off the coast of Ecuador. Butt explained: “We all think of the Galapagos as this island that Charles Darwin was on, and it was pristine. However human activity has endangered that whole archipelago.
“So, Toyota works with restoration through our knowhow of waste management to put them in a much better position to about further contamination of the island.”
5. Partnering for a sustainable future
When Toyota shares its expertise with other groups solutions can be scaled-up.
In one central environmental initiative, Toyota partners, each year, with the National Environmental Education Foundation to sponsor National Public Lands Day – the largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands in the US.
In September 2017 Toyota involvement made volunteerism possible at 2100 such sites where 169 000 volunteers gave 680 000 hours of service worth the equivalent of about R240-billion. That includes working with suppliers to help them reduce their operational carbon emissions.
For example, Ryder has already replaced 29 diesel trucks to move goods for Toyota’s assembly plant in Kentucky with heavy-duty trucks that burn compessed natural gas.
Increased mobiliy – whether walking or rolling – doesn’t have to mean leaving a conspicuous footprint.