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SustainAbility Newsletter

Higher Oil Costs Could Speed Up the Use of New Green Materials in Fords

Ford Focus

Rising oil prices have Ford upping the ante in its push to reduce petroleum dependence and use more sustainable materials – including retired U.S. paper currency – to make parts.      

A wide range of alternatives to products now made with petroleum are under review for potential application in Ford vehicles – from shredded retired currency to cellulose from trees, Indian grass, sugar cane, dandelions, corn and coconuts.

"Ford has a long history of developing green technologies because it’s the right thing to do from an environmental perspective,” said John Viera, Ford’s global director of Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental matters. “Now, finding alternative sources for materials is becoming imperative as petroleum prices continue to rise and traditional, less sustainable materials become more expensive.
     
“The potential to reuse some of the country’s paper currency once it has been taken out of circulation is a great example of the kind of research we are doing,” Viera added.
     
In the early 2000s, when Ford started heavily researching sustainable materials, petroleum was readily available and relatively cheap; a barrel of oil was $16.65. Earlier this year, a barrel hit a high of $109.77.
        
Adding to the appeal of the new potential resources is that they are so plentiful. For example, 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of retired paper currency are shredded daily – more than 3.6 million pounds annually. The shredded money is either compressed into bricks and landfilled, or burned.
    
New sustainable materials that can meet Ford’s stringent requirements and testing could join a growing list of alternatives to petroleum-based materials already in use.
      
Ford’s use of soybean-based cushions in all of its North American vehicles including the all-new Fusion, for example, saves approximately 5 million pounds of petroleum annually. The all-new Escape has door bolsters partially made of kenaf – a tropical plant in the cotton family – offsetting the use of 300,000 pounds of oil-based resin per year in North America.
    
It’s just a start.
   
Pie-in-the-sky no more
   
“Building vehicles with great fuel economy is our highest priority in reducing our environmental impact,” said Carrie Majeske, Ford’s Product Sustainability manager. “We recognize the use of sustainable materials inside our cars, utilities and trucks can also help reduce our environmental impact. These are steps that are not only better for our planet in the long run but are cost-effective as well.”
      
Ford has concentrated on increasing the use of non-metal recycled and bio-based materials to reduce its dependence on petroleum products. Examples include:

  • The new Fusion contains the equivalent of slightly more than two pairs of average-sized American blue jeans as sound-dampening material to help eliminate unwanted road, wind and powertrain noise
  • Kenaf is used in the door bolsters of Escape
  • Ten pounds of scrap cotton from blue jeans, T-shirts, sweaters and other items go in to the Escape’s dashboard
  • The equivalent of 25 recycled 20-ounce plastic bottles helps make the Escape’s carpet
  • Focus Electric uses a wood-fiber-based material in its doors and recycled plastic bottles in its seat fabric
  • Flex has wheat straw in its plastic bins
  • Taurus SHO uses a micro denier suede made from 100 percent recycled yarns

These days the phones are ringing off the hook for Ford’s sustainability research team. As the business case for using sustainable materials strengthens, interest is growing in the potential of some unexpected and interesting sources, including the shredded paper money and coconut fibers. Ideas once considered pie-in-the-sky now merit serious consideration.

“We have been working with an ever-increasing list of collaborators – chemical companies, universities, suppliers and others – to maximize efforts and develop as many robust, sustainable materials as possible for the 300 pounds of plastic on an average vehicle,” said Dr. Debbie Mielewski, technical leader of Ford’s Materials Research and Innovation team.
     
That leaves sustainable materials like shredded money being tested to determine how well they perform under certain conditions. Researchers can then recommend potential use. Shredded money, for example, is being considered for interior trays and bins, said Mielewski.
     
There is no guarantee any or all of these sustainable materials will end up in Ford cars and trucks, she added. But Mielewski is excited about how much more attention and support her team – and the whole subject of sustainable materials – is receiving.
    
Ugly bean – pretty useful
     
“When we first started talking about this stuff 10 years ago, it was mainly automotive and trade magazines showing interest in our research,” said Mielewski. “Now it seems to be everywhere. We are working on very exciting research and it will be interesting to see what comes next and how fast.”
      
Soybeans could be considered the root of Ford’s effort to use more sustainable materials, which lower environmental impact while providing a performance equivalent to the materials they are replacing.
    
Henry Ford first experimented with soybeans in the early part of the last century, but the current soybean project began 10 years ago when a group of farmers approached Ford seeking new uses for the abundant soybean crop in the U.S. Midwest.
    
Ford researchers challenged themselves to develop soybean-based foams that met every performance and durability requirement. They chose to use the material in seat cushions because they account for two-thirds of the foam (or about 25 pounds) used in a single vehicle.
    
“We had to come up with a product that performed as well as or better than the products we had been using for decades,” said Mielewski.
    
Early versions of the soybean cushion were fraught with problems – from strong odor to falling short of Ford’s stringent quality standards. Labs full of the failed attempts still exist on Ford’s Dearborn campus.
    
“Because Ford has such high standards, it took a long time,” said Mielewski. “But after five years, we were finally able to meet every single requirement – compression, durability, everything.”
    
Still, in the early 2000s the fact remained: Petroleum and plastic were inexpensive, and it was just too costly to change the way things had been done for about 100 years. The lack of urgency at the time became an advantage, said Mielewski.
    
“We were left alone to get creative, take our time and figure out where and how these – and future – sustainable materials might fit into our vehicles and processes, and that’s great news for both our customers and the environment,” said Mielewski.


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References and Sources used in this issue of SustainAbility Newsletter Include:

Audubon Lifestyles
www.audubonlifestyles.org 
             
The International Sustainability Council
www.thesustainabilitycouncil.org 

Sustainability Campaign
sustainabilitycampaign.blogspot.com

Ford Motor Company
www.ford.com

Urbana University
www.urbana.edu

Defenders of Wildlife
www.defenders.org

The Earthday Network
www.earthday.org/2012

Bloomberg Businessweek
www.businessweek.com

Small Busienss Trends
www.smallbiztrends.com

The Dodson Group
www.thedodsongrp.com      

To learn about sponsorship opportunities please call us at: 727-733-0762
This Issue of the SustainAbility Newsletter sponsored in part by:

The Dodson Group

SustainAbility Newsletter Archive Article (random)

Critter of the Season - Big Cypress Fox Squirrel

Fox Squirrel

The Big Cypress Fox Squirrel is a species in decline through much of its former range.  While this critter is dwindling in numbers, it is commonly seen on golf courses, particularly in Southwest, Florida.  Some of the healthiest populations of the squirrel are to be found on the fairways and habitats of the links in Lee and Collier Counties, Florida.

The scientific name of the Big Cypress Fox Squirrel is Sciurus niger avicennia. The genus name Sciurus is from the Greek words skia (shadow) and oura (tail), a reference to the bushy tail which casts a shadow on the squirrel. The Latin species name niger (black) refers to the black color phase which is common in this species.
  
Common name
Fox squirrels may have earned their name from their gray and red fur coat that resemble that of a gray fox, from their comparatively large size and thick bushy tail, and/or from peculiar way of running along the ground which gives the appearance of a small fox.
  
Lifespan
Fox squirrels live from four to seven years of age on average in natural conditions. One individual lived to 18 years of age in captivity.
   
Home range
Ranges vary from 8-32 acres depending on habitat conditions. Fox squirrels have large overlapping home ranges and are non-territorial.
  
Geographic Range
Fox squirrels are found throughout most of Florida except in the Keys. There are three subspecies of fox squirrels in Florida. The Big Cypress Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger avicennia, is found from the Caloosahatchee River in Lee county south and then east to the southern part of Dade county. Sherman's Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger shermani is found throughout most of the peninsula. The Carolina Fox Squirrel is found in the panhandle and northwards.
    
Contrary to two common names sometimes given to the Big Cypress Fox Squirrel -- Mangrove Fox Squirrel and Everglades Fox Squirrel -- it is not common in either mangrove or Everglades habitats. It is most common in open pinelands, live oak forests, and stands of bigger bald cypress.
Fox squirrels are found throughout the eastern and central United States, south into northern Mexico, and north into Canada. They have been introduced into urban areas in western North America as well.
  
Status
Big Cypress Fox Squirrel: threatened species
Sherman's Fox Squirrel: species of special concern
   
Habitat
Fox squirrels spend more time on the ground than gray squirrels and are slower moving. They forage for acorns, nuts, fruits, insects, mushrooms, buds and tubers, so they require habitats with an open understory. These include open pine flatwoods, sandhills, mixed pine-hardwood areas and rangeland interspersed with trees. In Florida, the fox squirrel may also be found in cypress stands and occasionally mangrove swamps.
Further north, fox squirrels are found in a diverse array of deciduous and mixed forest. Areas with a good variety of tree species are preferred due to variability in mast production.
   
Physical Characteristics
Fox squirrels weigh from one to three pounds, and exhibit color variations which range from a buff color to gray, and in some instances black. The under parts are usually lighter, and typical specimens have white noses with black faces and feet. They are noted for their long, bushy tails and for their strong hind legs which allows them to leap easily from place to place.
    
Fox squirrels have both a summer and winter coat, and therefore molt twice each year. The spring molt begins in March and may last for weeks, left, whereas the autumn molt begins in September. But the tail only molts once each year during the summer.
   
Fox squirrels have four sets of whiskers located above and below the eyes, on the underside of the head in front of the throat, and on the nose. Whiskers, also known as vibrissae, are touch receptors that provide the animal with information about its immediate surroundings.
   
Fox squirrels have very good eyesight even in dim light, and a wide field of vision. They also have a well developed sense of smell and hearing.
The skull of the fox squirrel has 20 teeth (gray squirrels have 22 teeth). Squirrels have upper and lower incisor teeth followed by a gap called a diastema. The diastema is where the canine teeth would normally be found in carnivorous animals such as cats or dogs, or omnivorous animals such as monkeys. Behind the diastema are the cheek or grinding teeth which consist of premolars and molars.
   
As with other rodent species, the incisors continuously grow to compensate for the enormous amount of wear that comes from a herbivorous diet.
Young squirrels have milk teeth which are replaced by permanent teeth when they are between six and twelve months old.
  
Fox squirrels are highly adapted for climbing trees and fatal falls are rare. Adaptations for climbing include sharp recurved claws, well developed extensors of digits and flexors of forearms, and abdominal musculature.
 
Tails are used for balance when running and leaping between trees, and held over the back of a resting animal.
    


PDF

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE ENTIRE NEWSLETTER IN PDF FORMAT
References and Sources used in this issue of SustainAbility Newsletter Include:
Audubon Lifestyles
www.audubonlifestyles.org 
  
The International Sustainability Council
www.thesustainabilitycouncil.org 

Toyota
www.toyota.com

Ford Motors
www.ford.com

Girl Scouts of America
www.girlscouts.org

Austin Ranch
www.austinranch.com

Turf Feeding Systems
www.turffeeding.com

The University of Michigan
www.umich.edu

The Dodson Group
www.thedodsongrp.com      

To learn about sponsorship opportunities please call us at: 727-733-0762
This Issue of the SustainAbility Newsletter sponsored in part by:

The Dodson Group

$25 Annually $100 Annually $250 Reg / $100 Annually


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