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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Jan/Feb 2000 :The First Ford Environmentalist

The First Ford Environmentalist

While Bill Ford may be the company’s most recent environmental champion, it was in fact the founder of Ford Motor Co., Henry Ford, who lays claim to the title of the company’s first environmentalist.

“If you go way back, my great grandfather was really an environmentalist,” says Ford. “He wouldn’t have called himself that because the term didn’t exist. But John Burroughs, who was one of the great naturalists of this century, was one of his best friends and they would go on camping trips together . . . (they) talked a lot and it had a profound effect on his business philosophy.”

Henry Ford especially railed against the notion of waste in the production process. As a result, the wood from shipping crates for parts received in the plant was stripped and used as either running boards or the sides of Woody station wagons. The scrap that was left over from that process was compressed into charcoal, thus prompting Henry Ford to start Kingsford Charcoal.

“Nothing was wasted; everything was used and reused,” Bill Ford describes.

Henry Ford also pioneered the use of environmentally friendly materials into the manufacture of cars—from wheat gluten to one of his favorites: soybeans. In the early ‘30s, the company developed a soybean enamel that was used to paint cars and oil casting molds. In 1935, Ford Motor Co. reported that two bushels of soybeans went into every car—in the paint, the horn button, gearshift knob, door handles, accelerator pedal and timing gears.

 


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