Chevrolet Races to Save the Bats with NASCAR Fans

Chevrolet Races to Save the Bats with NASCAR Fans

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Friday, June 19, 2015 - 11:45am

CAMPAIGN: GM Resource Preservation


Earlier this week we shared how we’re reusing Chevrolet Volt batteries to help power our new IT building. But we also repurpose scrap Volt battery covers to benefit bats, bluebirds and wood ducks.

The battery cover is challenging to recycle by traditional means, so this initiative provides a more practical solution with less environmental impact. It’s an example of how we view waste as a resource out of place. But it’s also a great project to engage kids and pass along an appreciation for the outdoors.

In collaboration with NASCAR Green, our Chevrolet Racing team and sustainability experts assembled a pit crew of 50 little NASCAR fans during a recent race at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania to build 15 bat boxes.

We’ve been building these structures for more than five years now and have more than 700 nesting boxes installed at our 40 wildlife habitat sites and on various public and private lands across the U.S. and Canada, and our efforts have been ramped up due to a disease called white nose syndrome that’s killing bats at a fast rate throughout the U.S. and beyond.

Pennsylvania is getting hit especially hard. According to The Center for Biological Diversity, the bat population in the northeast has declined by an estimated 99 percent. The little brown bat – once the most common bat in North America – is now protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Providing more homes so that bats can get out of spaces infested with the disease may help slow it from spreading.

Bats are critical to ecosystem balance. Each one can eat up to 5,000 insects per night, and as pollinators they play an important role in what you and I eat, too. Pollinators are responsible for one third of human food crops worldwide.

Besides helping save these furry flying creatures, the kids at Pocono got some firsthand experience with our new and improved, second-generation bat house design.  One that uses scrap circuit trays from our truck and SUV engine control modules generated at our Kokomo, Indiana plant.

Our growing landfill-free initiative requires us to account for every single waste stream generated at our operations.  And tracking the 15,000-plus waste streams in our plants around the world gives us many opportunities for creative reuse, as was the case with the circuit trays. The environmental engineers at our landfill-free Kokomo Operations facility in Indiana called attention to the trays, which no area recyclers wanted.

Confident they could have a better second life through reuse, our resident MacGyver, John Bradburn, kept it on his desk until one day it just hit him. He could swap out the wood pallet layers in the original bat box design with these trays. The pallets proved to be time intensive what with all the cutting and trimming. Now, he could just notch two wood pieces on the sides, enabling him to slide these trays one after another right inside the battery case. 

“When I held the circuit tray up the length was about right and the width was perfect,” John recalled. “I figured with some epoxy adhesive applied and sand sprinkled on it to make for a grittier surface, bats would have no problem hanging on.”

He was right. After doing a trial run of the new design, John had consulted with Rob Mies, a world-renowned bat expert. Rob put a little brown bat on it, and sure enough, it hung right on.

Hopefully the boxes the folks at Pocono Raceway install at the track will find the same luck.

CATEGORY: Environment