Blog: John Bradburn

Haul away those dumpsters with John Bradburn, environmental engineer for the GM Worldwide Facilities Group. John waxes green this week on GM's clean innovations and landfill-free program and on why businesses need an eco-friendly infrastructure.

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.