August 17, 2010

Keeping it Green: A John Bradburn Family Tradition

John Bradburn is General Motors’s expert on reducing waste and recycling.   Over the past 15 years, he’s helped GMs engineers and plants eliminate over 1 million tons of non-recycled waste that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.  John is just as energetic in reducing, reusing, and recycling waste in his time away from work.

A FamilyTradition. Taking care of the environment has always been a way of life for my family. I was the second oldest in a family of nine.  For us, tent camping in Michigan was an economical way to take a vacation.  We made the best from what we had and I believe those experiences became the foundation for the rest of my life.  I remember following my dad through the forest when I was a little boy with my BB gun.  My parents taught us a deep appreciation for the earth and the need to protect it for future generations.  My wife Sharon and I have tried to pass along that same appreciation to our three boys.

Preserving Nature. I own 24 acres in the Grand Blanc area of Michigan, that my famFaces-of-GM_John-Bradburn_with_Barnily and I have turned into a wildlife haven.  We actively manage it to provide water, food and habitat for wildlife.  It is home to songbirds, owls, hawks, ducks, and just about any other wildlife species native to the area.

Working with My Hands. I enjoy building things.  I built my house from scratch.  When I can, I use recycled materials in my projects. In fact, I built a small cabin on my property with scrap wood and sided it with old shipping pallets, made into shingles.

I guess the ultimate recycling might be my taxidermy work.  When I was a boy, I remember feeling a need to preserve and share the beauty of wildlife.  I was in awe of pheasants, with their beautiful plumage that my dad hunted. I felt a need to do more than pluck them and throw away the feathers after the bird was prepared for our dinner. I saw an ad in my Boy Scout magazine for a taxidermy course. I sent my $10 in and that’s how I learned taxidermy. My mom was very encouraging and complimentary of my early efforts. Now, I enjoy working with birds, although I’ve done all kinds of animals. Once, in college, we brought a shark home from Florida tied to the bottom of a Trans Am so I that could mount it to preserve it for others to enjoy.

Mentoring. I was a Boy Scout then a Scoutmaster for many years. Now, I mentor the scouts with Eagle Projects.  My nephew Jacob is working on a project right now.   He built and placed Wood Duck nest boxes, made from Chevrolet Volt battery pack covers and other materials at several GM sites.  The covers were destined to be scrapped, but rather than be landfilled or sent for incineration, they were repurposed to benefit wildlife.  Wood Ducks have been challenged over the last several years, due to habitat and nest site loss.  Artificial nest boxes, when engineered correctly, serve as excellent alternative nesting cavities.

My job is finding solutions to GM’s waste issues.  I feel like I’m making the world a better place for everybody.  Today, I enjoy mentoring young engineers and students.   I try to get them to think out of the box.   For example, a project I worked on resulted in the Buick LaCrosse having a part of its headliner made out of recycled cardboard from our plants.  Another was to sell vehicle components with slight dents and scratches.  I tell them: the easy part is coming up with the idea, the hard part is implementing it.  You have to work some of these environmentally sound ideas through the system, but it is more than worth it when they are in place.

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