The following is a synopsis of the July 16 Putnam Rotary meeting. Putnam Rotary meets at noon on Tuesdays at Area 34 in Hurricane.

Marc Crouse is a lover of nature. And he has the papers to prove it. He graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan in engineering physics and earned a graduate degree in environmental engineering from the University of Kansas. And then he landed a dream job as environmental specialist at Toyota in Buffalo. That was over 20 years ago.

"We need to reduce our impact on the wildlife around us," he told Putnam Rotarians. "Our processes and products should work in harmony with nature," he said.

"As a corporate citizen, Toyota has a culture where environment is part of the job. We want to eliminate all CO2 emissions. Right now we have a lot of hybrid technology and we're headed toward [development of] fuel cells.

"We have a two-megawatt solar farm this year," he said. "We're planning for five megawatts.

"The focus is on safety, quality and environment," he said. "We have over 100 robots to do repetitive processes. Automated carts guided by computer run predetermined courses to supply materials to the production lines.

"Metal-halide lighting has been replaced by fluorescent fixtures. The new lights use 50% less energy and are 50% brighter. And the savings in energy in a year represents a reduction of 2,300 tons in CO2 emissions."

During his time at Toyota, Crouse has replaced trees along Route 62 and worked with Appalachian Power to install LED street lighting from the Buffalo Bridge to the town.

"Twelve years ago," Crouse announced, "Toyota became ISO 14000 Certified, which meant that the plant met international environmental standards."

Working with the state Department of Natural Resources, Toyota achieved wildlife certification, and over 300 team members joined with local schools and civic groups to develop a 50-acre environmental classroom north of the plant and across from Buffalo High.

Danielle Grant, a Putnam teacher-of-the-year and agricultural science instructor, brought her Bison FFA club to help with the project.

A one-mile walking trail was opened. "It's not listed as a public place, but it's open," said Crouse. "Anybody can go. So long as there is no vandalism, we will allow it to be open.

"Wildlife habitat signs have been placed in different regions of the walkway. Solar lights were recently installed. [The path] is lighted every 60 feet after dark.

"Davey Tree Company helped with polyandric gardens."

That means flowers with numerous stamens. They take at least three years to mature, Crouse explained.

"A graduate student did her thesis on the project to satisfy our habitat requirement for monitoring.

"We set up trail cams and microphones. We wanted to get away from paper. Now visitors can scan QR codes with a phone. Toyota spent an estimated $150,000 on educational signs.

"We've had a lot of leeway with funding, which has been great," said Crouse. "Owl boxes and eagle nests have been installed. A class from Hurricane High helped build insect habitats."

Now other schools and community groups are joining in with Toyota's outdoor classroom environment project.

"We're not successful with everything," Marc Crouse told his Rotarian audience. "But some are working.

"Everything we do as a production facility, we want to offset that by doing something for the wildlife habitat around us."


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