Blog: John Bradburn

John is a staff environmental engineer with GM Worldwide Facilities Group (WFG), Global Environmental Programs and has over 30 years experience with GM.  He received a Master of Science degree in hazardous waste management from Wayne State University in 1995 and a Bachelor of Science degree from Northern Michigan University.   John also is a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM).  

His current job responsibilities include implementing environmental process and product technology improvements that reduce environmental impacts and costs.  These improvements include working with suppliers and product engineers as well as other manufacturing groups from a Design for the Environment (DfE) perspective to improve by-product management strategies.  To date, this work has lead to the elimination of several hundred thousand tons of waste while converting waste costs to revenue.

John has been recognized by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Environmental Excellence in Transportation group with four Environmental Excellence in Transportation awards for material development and usage as well as reuse and recycling projects.  John has also received numerous GM internal environmental recognitions and has global responsibilities for GM's Design for the Environment (DfE) and the landfill-free program. 

Photograph © Marvin Shaouni Photography
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John Bradburn - Most Recent Posts:

Post 2: Business Perspectives on Creating Green Dots

Because of the field I work in, I'm often asked about my thoughts on how companies can embrace green business practices and also help their bottom line. Following are some of my thoughts:   

Focus on waste management - I encourage all businesses to consider all forms of waste as resources out of place.   Look closely at your processes and know that virtually all materials, when managed efficiently, can have beneficial reuse. Ask yourself, staff, and others if your processes are as efficient as possible and if all waste is being managed in the following order: eliminated, repurposed, recycled, or converted to energy. A good first step for businesses to start reducing waste is to understand how materials are used or processed in your operations. Then you can begin to manage each use phase for improved waste performance.  I also recommend setting waste reduction goals and then holding all employees accountable to those goals.

Identify "cradle to cradle" opportunities - The old adage, "One man's trash is another man's treasure" is more important today than ever. To improve our sustainability, companies should work together to help identify where by-products from one company's operations can be used as inputs for another company's processes. This concept, described as "cradle to cradle," helps to keep valued resources in the use cycle, which can greatly reduce structural costs, create jobs, and enhance environmental sustainability.   

In the future, land use planning decisions will not only be based on traditional factors such as workforce availability, infrastructure, and natural resources, but also on material reuse synergies.  The challenge is for companies to connect their dots by working together and creating these sorts of increased efficiencies. The result will be improved environmental stewardship and reduced material costs.   

Revitalize old facilities and business sites – Updating a brownfield site can reduce your land use footprint and in many cases should enable faster start ups, permit approvals, tax incentives, and even uncover potential supplemental funding sources. You can also capitalize on the fact that urban and metropolitan areas offer existing infrastructure in the form of roads and utilities and can provide a more reduced environmental impact than greenfields. Sustainable building renovation and removal should also de-pollute, de-construct and then reconstruct - preserving historical artifacts and construction materials for repurposing into new building products and projects as well as other applications.  These activities all result in green jobs and are value-added with less environmental impact as compared to traditional wrecking ball demolition and landfill methods.

Beyond brownfields, businesses can also consider involvement in full circle land use business ventures.   Activities are taking place today to convert abandoned, deteriorated urban sites into various agricultural uses.  This relatively new phenomenon is a result of population shifting and sprawl and as the land use evolution occurs, it brings green business opportunities.       

Use green chemical alternatives - Seek green chemistry chemical use alternatives that reduce health, safety and environmental use risks.  If done correctly, engineering controls and management costs will be reduced as well.    

Engage in environmental groups and forums to add to your green dots - General Motors is a founding member of the Suppliers Partnership for the Environment (SP), which works with EPA and non-profit organizations such as Goodwill Industries.  The group's goal is to identify and apply technologies and innovations that enhance the environment and create economic opportunities for the auto sector.  Right here in metro Detroit, local businesses can seek out similar forums for their own industries or gain valuable insights by getting involved in groups like the Southeast Michigan Sustainable Business Forum.

There are many things businesses can do to promote sustainability. These suggestions are just a start but I hope they've gotten you thinking about how your own business or organization can look for opportunities to be more green. For more information on some of the things GM is doing with our own operations to help protect the environment, click here.

Post 1: GM Connects the Green Dots

As a student of science, I view our greater Detroit metropolitan area as an ecosystem with many attributes of strength. Studies in ecology also tell us that these systems must evolve and develop weak areas in order to be sustainable into the future. These areas in need should be viewed as opportunities that are important because the overall health of any ecological system is dependent on the strength of each member working synergistically together.
Since GM has been a member of this metropolitan ecosystem for over 100 years and currently has many facilities with a network of suppliers, we play an important role in the area's sustained growth. During this time we have experienced similarities with many businesses which have had success, and certainly, areas that need improvement. We also recognize that environmental business aspects will play a major role in the future.
As a GM environmental engineer, my job is to develop and deploy environmental technologies and waste minimization programs in order to reduce manufacturing impacts, gain financial value, and promote environmental sustainability. Simply put, I work to "connect the green dots" for all who are impacted by the automotive industry on a global basis.

Our corporate responsibility includes efforts to study our world as it continues to change and then match those conditions with technological advances to offset increased demand for natural resources and transportation options. The GM Hamtramck assembly operation will play a significant role in this regard when it begins producing the Chevrolet Volt at the end of this year. As part of the urban ecosystem and a historical brownfield site in metro Detroit, it is an excellent choice for producing the Chevrolet Volt and it will soon be the epicenter of the many green dots forming the Volt's green manufacturing infrastructure.
Perhaps some of the most recognized of GM’s "green dots" are our landfill-free facilities. We are committed to achieving landfill-free status at 50 percent of our manufacturing operations by the end of 2010. To date, we are 78 percent complete, with 56 facilities having achieved this status. Nine of these GM facilities are in the U.S., including our Warren Transmission plant in Warren, Michigan. These facilities reached this status by sending no waste to landfills from their daily manufacturing operations. This achievement in Warren would not have been possible without connecting to local green businesses, such as Preferred Filter Recycling and Waste Free, both Detroit companies who developed recycling technologies to help us achieve our goal. 

Another green dot connecting our local suppliers is the GM used oil management program.  General Oil Company, located in Livonia, has been recycling used oil for GM since 1998.  In 2008, General Oil Company recycled over 1.5 million gallons of oil from GM facilities in North America.  Approximately 25 percent of the reclaimed oil was returned to GM in the form of a recycled way lube.  Early this year, GM North America will begin converting all hydraulic oils and way lubes to recycled products to drive this closed loop system.
Gage Products, located in Ferndale, is receiving vehicle paint purge solvents from all of GM's U.S. assembly plants, re-refining and re-blending the solvents, and returning them to GM for reuse in the same applications.  Benefits of these programs include reducing GM's environmental footprint by generating less waste and demand for virgin solvent manufacturing.  Additionally, the program saves costs and increases local manufacturing competitiveness.
These examples are just a few of the many green programs we have underway at GM which help to demonstrate our commitment to continually improving our environmental performance in all aspects of our business.  You can find more information on our efforts here.

Like I stated earlier, my job is to connect the "green dots" for increased sustainability and I believe these dots are really islands of hope for the future of our metropolitan home.   Households, businesses, and community members play a role in connecting with green as well.   As our community ecosystems continue to evolve, increased green innovation will be needed. That includes reacting locally with a global vision and developing new business ventures as well as improving current business performance for the betterment of all.   

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