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What does sustainability mean to the tire industry?

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Jennifer Karpus

AKRON (April 22, 2013) — In honor of Earth Day today, I got to thinking a lot about what this day represents.

Across the world, children will be planting flowers and learning to conserve energy while at school, but what do we, as adults, do?

Do you shut the water off while brushing your teeth every day? Or maybe just today to get into the spirit? Do you car pool with other families to drive your children to school? Make sure you recycle your bottle after you are done drinking your water or soda?

What is it that we do on a regular basis that helps keep the planet sustainable?

Maybe you are like me and your thoughts immediately turn to sustainability ideas—especially those that have been swirling around the tire industry. Although I am new to the industry, I know people do not normally think about tires and correlate them to sustainable materials, or think about the industry as a whole in terms of sustainability—but we know better.

We’ve all been reading about Goodyear’s trials with soybean oil,… Bridgestone America’s and Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.’s investments in hevea trees and guayule research,…Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc.’s using walnut shells for a biting grip for winter tires,…Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd.’s and Michelin North America Inc.’s use of citrus oils,… Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd.’s marketing a tire in Japan made with 97-percent replenishable raw materials,… and so much more.

Out of curiosity, I typed “tire sustainability” into a Google search to see what would pop up. It brought 1.44 million results in less than a second. I immediately sifted through pages and pages of entries from major tire manufacturers to recycling-oriented companies and places in between.

Looking at a Google image search on the topics pulls up everything from eco-friendly tires to recycled tire uses. Even artists have found inspiration with tires, using them as a base for intricate works of art. Plenty of gardeners have taken to using tires as a great base for a potted plant, which is a task I plan to try out myself in a few weeks when the weather gets just a little nicer.

So what does this mean? It means the tire industry, and current and potential customers, care about sustainable products. If they didn’t, there would not be such a race among the tire makers to find different types of sustainable materials.

Basically, the entire industry is trying to step up and move forward with these types of environmentally-friendly ideas and products.

I reached out to Tire Business Facebook followers to see if any independent tire dealers or automotive service providers were offering any special Earth Day-oriented sales or promotions. I was a little surprised when West Bridgewater-Mass.-based Kenwood Tire & Auto Service let me know that they are really getting into the day by hosting a recycled tire planter giveaway. The shop is not just showing it’s customers it cares about sustainability for its new tires; it cares about what to do with the old ones, too.

These are the types of things some consumers take into consideration when they buy products. Have you been seeing an influx of purchased new oil, or more people opting to use the more eco-friendly re-refined and recycled oil during an oil change?

If we, as an industry, are using sustainable products, maybe Earth Day isn’t just about kids at school digging a hole in the dirt after all.

Jennifer Karpus is a Tire Business reporter who blogs on a regular basis on social media topics.

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