Fun in the Sun -- Friends, family and staffers check out the solar panel array during the grand opening of Toyota of Corvallis (Oregon), on track to become the first automotive retailer to achieve LEED Platinum Net Zero certification.
Mention Toyota and the environment in the same sentence and talk of the Prius invariably follows. But the company’s commitment to doing the right thing for the planet extends well beyond its iconic hybrid vehicle.
Perhaps the most prominent example is the way Toyota designs and operates its U.S. facilities. The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program provides third-party verification of the environmental impact of physical structures. Eleven of Toyota’s facilities in this country have achieved LEED certification, including seven at the gold level.
Meanwhile, 51 U.S. Toyota and Lexus dealerships have also earned LEED certification, more than any other automaker. That includes Toyota of Corvallis. The Oregon dealership opened in 2016 and is on track to become the first automotive retailer to ascend to the highest rung on the LEED ladder: Platinum Net Zero. That means the store generates more energy than it consumes.
Give it the Gas -- TMMK has a hand in helping to turn methane gas generated by a local Kentucky landfill into electricity.
Here Comes the Sun
Producing sustainable power is a key contributor to this equation. Case in point: Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, the largest Toyota plant in the world, recently teamed up with Waste Services of the Bluegrass to generate methane gas from local landfill waste. The initiative is generating enough electricity to power the production of 10,000 vehicles annually.
Similarly, Toyota Motor North America’s new state-of-the-art headquarters in Plano, Texas, includes a 7.75-megawatt solar system. It’s the largest onsite solar installation among non-utility companies in the state. When fully operational, it’s expected to reduce annual carbon emissions by 7,122 metric tons, or the equivalent of the electricity used by almost 1,000 homes in a year.
The new campus benefited from the lessons learned when Toyota Motor Sales built out its South Campus expansion in Torrance, California, in 2003. At the time, that landmark facility was the largest corporate structure to achieve LEED certification at the gold level. And it was the first Toyota facility to incorporate a rooftop solar panel array. With an output of 536 kilowatts, it was also the largest system of its kind in the country.
Conservation, on the other side of the ledger, has also been an area of focus. In 2016 alone, Toyota’s North American facilities saved nearly 100 million gallons of water, the amount used by more than 900 families in a year. In 2012, 10 of Toyota’s North American manufacturing plants achieved zero waste to landfill. And since 2015, 96 percent of all of Toyota’s U.S. facilities’ non-regulated waste has been reduced, reused or recycled.
Project Portal -- Toyota is partnering with the Port of Los Angeles to conduct a real-world test of a high-output version of the company's hydrogen fuel cell powertrain.
Toyota pushes the environmental envelope when it comes to its products. Most notable of late is the Mirai, Toyota’s first-ever production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, launched in 2015. Some 20 years in the making, this zero-emission, electric sedan has a range of about 300 miles and can be refueled in three to five minutes.
Much work needs to be done to establish a national network of hydrogen refueling stations. But Toyota believes that infrastructure will come in time and that fuel cell technology will be a key contributor to a sustainable future.
That’s why, among other initiatives, it joined forces with the Port of Los Angeles on Project Portal to conduct a real-world test of a high-output version of the company’s hydrogen fuel cell system geared to heavy truck use.
Simultaneously, Toyota has continued to invest in battery-electric vehicles, most notably forming an in-house venture company for EV development in 2016.
Hands On -- Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana team members pitch in to help on National Public Lands Day. Toyota has been the national corporate sponsor of the event since 1999.
Toyota has played a leading role in support of U.S. environmental organizations and outreach efforts, in keeping with its commitment to give back to the communities in which it does business.
For instance, every year since 1999, Toyota has been a sponsor of National Public Lands Day — with team members volunteering thousands of hours to maintain hiking trails, clean stream beds, remove trash and plant trees. Similarly, since 2008, Toyota and the National Audubon Society have partnered on TogetherGreen, a program that funds conservation projects, train environmental leaders and offer volunteer opportunities to significantly benefit the environment.
Here’s another example: In 2015, the Lamar Buffalo Ranch project at Yellowstone National Park went online. It repurposes 208 used Camry hybrid battery packs to store electricity generated by a solar panel array that powers a ranger station and education center in one of the most remote and pristine areas of the country.
A Battery of Batteries -- A technician checks the array of repurposed Camry hybrid pattery packs, used to store electricity generated at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch project at Yellowstone National Park.
The Next 60 Years
Toyota has done far more than can be summarized here to operate in a responsible and sustainable manner. But it’s committed to going even further in the years ahead. The ultimate objective? Operations that shift from a negative to a true net-positive impact. The Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 serves as the roadmap to get from here to there.
“To achieve our goal, we’ll continue to make consistent, incremental improvements,” says Kevin Butt, Toyota Motor North America regional environmental director. “These constant improvements, supported by innovative projects across Toyota operations in North America, will create positive change and a more sustainable future.”
By Dan Miller