Toyota’s wood duck nesting project part of efforts to preserve environment

wood ducks

Sean McCarthy, environmental engineering specialist at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi, Inc., checks a wood duck box on the Toyota property for ducklings.

In addition to rolling out a plethora of Toyota Corollas every day, the Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi, Inc. facility in Blue Springs is also deemed the model sustainable assembly plant for North American operations.
This is due to the many environmental and sustainability practices that are in place every day at the 1,540-acre Blue Springs facility. Performance, biodiversity, community education and renewable energy are the keys to these daily practices at TMMMS.
Because of the amount of hilly terrain, wooded areas, ponds, and land filled with naturally occurring wildlife, environmental engineering specialists like Sean McCarthy and Rosario Martinez take advantage of these positive attributes and create more wildlife habitats for their wildlife visitors.
For example, in a storm retention pond, beavers started making beaver dams and became very persistent in the constant building of the dams. Therefore, the beavers were welcomed in the pond, along with their wildlife friends like waterfowl, ducks, turtles, cranes, and more that now call that pond their home.
At other ponds and areas of water, wood duck boxes can be found sitting on top of metal poles, complete with a critter guard to keep unwanted animals from getting the wood duck ducklings.
Approximately a year ago, a wood duck nesting project was introduced at the Toyota site and Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts from New Albany Troop #83 and Pack #115 came out to help TMMMS team members build wood duck boxes and help repopulate the wood duck population around the Toyota property.
A long time ago, the wood duck was more than likely the most abundant waterfowl species in eastern North America. Unfortunately, their distribution within densely settled regions made them readily accessible to market hunters throughout the year. Due to overharvesting and the destruction of bottomland habitats, these birds were almost driven to extinction by the early 20th century. However, the building of the wood duck boxes and the help of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 have helped bring this species back.
There are 20 locations of these wood duck boxes placed around the Toyota property. The boxes have to be a minimum of 600 feet apart and cannot face each other, The boxes are usually placed close to the edge of the water. When they hatch, ducks fly out for good, and when a wood duck pairs up, they are paired for life. The wood ducks were attracted to the property from the building of and the placement of the wood duck boxes. McCarthy and Martinez monitor the boxes every two weeks for activity.
Also on the property are pollinator gardens, which are test plots with a pollinator seed mix from Mississippi State University. The goal is to bring any types of pollinators, from bees to butterflies, to the property.
McCarthy said, “We also submitted three projects to the Wildlife Habitat Council – part of our goal as being the model sustainability plant for North American operations.”
The Wildlife Habitat Council is a nonprofit group of corporations, conservation organizations and individuals dedicated to restoring and enhancing wildlife habitat. WHC works with corporations and other landowners to create tailored voluntary wildlife habitat enhancement and conservation education programs on corporate facilities and in the communities where they operate. The Wildlife Habitat Council focuses on three common biodiversity themes for the Toyota North American manufacturing plants: native habitat restoration, native landscaping and pollinator protection.
The employees at TMMMS recycle all packaging material, plastic, cardboard, aluminum, scrap metal, paper, and more. In 2013, there were 3,260 pounds of aluminum cans recycled and 8,887 pounds of plastic bottles that were recycled.
Martinez said, “We have constant communication on the recycling efforts and the key for us is to have visual control and communication. The money that TMMMS gets from recycling goes back to the Toyota Team Member Activity Association.”
As a way to conserve energy on the property, a 50-kilowatt solar panel system was installed a year ago. The energy created powers approximately eight homes; the energy is placed on the local grid. It’s the fourth largest solar panel system in the state.
TMMMS is a part of enHance, a voluntary initiative to recognize environmental leaders in Mississippi and is a part of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
TMMMS made a commitment to address and achieve on-going environmental improvements and encourages facilities to become more environmentally friendly. Organizations are either chosen as an associate, steward, or leader and TMMMS was chosen as leader.
Martinez said, “The good thing about the enHance program is that we can work with and learn form other facilities.”
TMMMS is also a part of the Energy Star program and has been for 10 years. This year the facility won the Energy Star award for using less energy, less water, and for practicing recycling, reducing, reusing efforts.
The facility also participates in National Public Lands Day
“Along with our business investments and commitment to safety and diversity…we are dedicated to improving the lives of our team members, enhancing the quality of life for our customers and tackling challenging issues that exist in the communities where we operate. During six consecutive years, Toyota has sponsored the National Public Lands Day. In 2012 almost 700 team members participate in National Public Lands Day. That was the highest participation rate of any Toyota North American facility,” said Martinez.
The facility has 15 geothermal wells that are 400 feet deep that help to cool and condense water vapor out of compressed air system.
For the employees of TMMMS, a walking trail is being constructed as well as a pavilion with a sitting area. Two mechanical engineering students from the University of Mississippi are taking this project on as their senior project. The plan is to plant trees and shrubs and have a pollinator garden around the sitting area. Also, the rainwater runoff will be captured from the roof of the pavilion and will be used to water the pollinator gardens.
The TMMMS has been an ISO 14001 certified company for two years. Another area in which TMMMS uses energy savings is in lighting.
The lighting is energy efficient in all manufacturing areas – bulbs of T8 are used instead of low-efficiency high-pressure sodium bulbs.