It’s rare to find an automaker or other brand that doesn’t have a pet project, charity or cause they donate to and maybe give some lip service. But in Subaru of America’s case, their commitment to environmental causes is authentically deep.
Reducing waste through recycling and reusing is a passion of mine. So when the automaker pitched me a story about a study they conducted with the National Park Service, I was intrigued.
The park service manages an astounding 100 million pounds of waste nationally — enough trash to fill the Statue of Liberty 1,800 times — much of which is sent to landfills, posing a significant threat to both the future of the parks and to the environment.
The waste characterization study was conducted in three pilot parks (Yosemite, Grand Teton and Denali) to examine sources of waste and identify ways to reduce waste, while also conducting a national survey to explore attitudes and behaviors of park visitors. The National Parks Conservation Association facilitated the waste characterization study at the pilot parks.
While the consumer survey found that 59% were unaware of the significant waste management challenge, 84% of respondents would be willing to make a significant effort to reduce the amount of trash left in parks.
A significant portion of the waste the park service manages nationally is brought in from outside — with a small range of everyday items being the biggest issue. The study found plastic waste, such as water bottles, plastic bags, non-recyclable or compostable food packaging, and paper hot cups, are the main drivers of waste sent to landfills and the parks’ biggest concern.
Subaru is using its expertise in zero-landfill practices to identify ways to reduce waste and leave a lasting impact on the parks for years to come, says Alan Bethke, senior vice president of marketing at Subaru of America.
“Subaru and its owners share a passion for helping make the world a better place, not because it’s popular or easy, but because it’s the right thing to do,” Bethke tells me. “Subaru owners are passionate park visitors and we want to do our part to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy them as much as we have.”
It’s not just the national parks benefiting from Subaru’s deep-seated commitment.
One of Subaru’s manufacturing facilities was the first auto plant in the U.S. to achieve zero-landfill-use in 2004. It also was the first U.S. auto plant to be designated a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation in 2003. The automaker has consulted with more than 800 business, organizations and groups on environmental practices.
Subaru has raised over $4 million for the parks through its "Share the Love" event providing support to more than 70 national parks. In 2014, Subaru sponsored a Free Fee Day at national parks and donated four Outback vehicles to Yosemite, Denali, Grand Teton and Grand Canyon.
Subaru had been the official vehicle of United By Blue cleanups from 2012-16. United By Blue and Subaru co-hosted 14 cleanups together removing 36,873 pounds of trash from U.S. waterways.
At dealerships, through its Subaru Love Promise, Subaru extends its activism to “Subaru Loves the Earth.” Retailers have adopted environmentally friendly facilities and policies in their communities. They make a dedicated effort to get out into the community and roll up their sleeves to help promote environmental responsibility any way they can.
In 2015, participating retailers joined with national and local environmental partners to conduct water and trail cleanups, electronic-device waste collection and recycling. In 2016, more than 375 Subaru retailers partnered with the National Wildlife Federation for Butterfly Heroes to help increase monarch butterfly populations through the planting and building of habitats butterflies need to thrive.
Subaru also was the official vehicle of the International Mountain Bicycling Association and sponsored the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew program since 1996. This program encouraged sustainable trail building practices and promoted education and efforts by IMBA chapters throughout the country. To date, Subaru and IMBA have improved or maintained thousands of trails and communities.
Now, if only everyone, everywhere, would pledge not to litter, the world could be as good-looking as it is in car commercials, not just Subaru’s.