5 Green Car Components That May Surprise You

A certain little, green felt frog once said that it wasn’t easy being green, “having to spend each day the color of the leaves.” We sure empathize with his plight, poor little guy, mostly because it’s a pretty song, but in the human world, “being green” is easier than you probably thought.

Sure, you recycle, you switched some light bulbs to compact fluorescents, maybe you even bought a more fuel-efficient vehicle or a hybrid—but did you know that you may be driving around in a car made of recycled materials? It’s true! Come along as Ask Patty brings you five car components you won’t believe are made from recycled materials.

The Volt’s Plastics. This one’s timely as well as Earth-friendly. Chevy is utilizing many recycled materials for the plastics that make up their all-electric Volt, including tires from their Milford Proving Ground, post-consumer recycled plastics, and—get this—saturated oil booms, which were used to contain the BP oil spill. They have about 100 miles worth of the material from the Gulf of Mexico, and they’re using it to build a better automobile. Now that’s turning a negative into a positive!

In the Driver’s Seat. Or actually, in all of your seats. Old clothes turn up in plenty of places—maybe you’ve found an old t-shirt under your seat—well, you’ll also find them in your seat! The 2012 Ford Focus uses cottons from recycled clothing in its carpet backing and sound-absorption materials, and both Ford and GM are using more and more post-industrial yarns, cottons and many other recycled materials in your car seat’s interior sound dampening—from old jeans to carpet.

Under the Hood. While we’re on the subject of Ford, you may not believe it, but if you drive one of many Ford vehicles, including Fusion, Escape, Mustang or F-150, when you look at your engine cover under the hood, you’re looking at recycled carpets. Sound hard to believe? It’s true!  Ford’s new cylinder head covers are crafted entirely from repurposed nylon gathered from old carpet.

In the Engine. Next time you go in for an oil change, consider your options: The standard oil change with new oil, refined from petroleum that grows more expensive day by day, or a motor oil that is chemically identical, and happens to be recycled. Didn’t know you could recycle used motor oil into brand new stuff? You sure can. The process is called re-refining, and for the lay-person, it can be compared to the process of distillation. Either way, the result is a product that is indiscernible from newly-refined motor oil, without the use of new petroleum. Products like Valvoline’s NexGen, SafetyKleen’s EcoPower and Universal Lubricants’ Eco Ultra are bringing an ever-expanding line of re-refined lubricants to consumer shelves.

Right out Front. Sometimes the recycled components are hiding in plain sight. The plastic in the grille of the GMC Terrain is made from recycled soda bottles. Hyundai unveiled a concept car called the QuarmaQ (pronounced  like “karmic” I presume?), a vehicle whose entire exterior skin is made from recycled plastics, and in 2010, Gordon Murray, designer of the McLaren F1 Supercar, created the T25 Supermini Car, built entirely out of recycled plastic bottles. All of it. While these last two are still in the conceptual stages, they’re definitely examples of what is to come—cars that utilize these recycled materials are smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient. And the truly beautiful thing: They keep on giving, even when it’s time for them to be returned. Ford and GM’s cars are currently 85 percent recyclable themselves, and that number will only grow larger as the innovations keep coming.

So you see, little frog? Green is the color of spring! It is easy being green, if you just look a little deeper. Ask about recycled components when you’re shopping for service or a new car and you just may be surprised at what’s being done to make your ride a little bit greener. Until next time, dear reader—may your rainbow connection be a green one!

Guest blogger Jody DeVere is the CEO of Inc, a website, blog and marketing agency providing automotive education to female consumers.