“Seven out of ten new hybrids sold are a Toyota,” explained Jim Colon during Toyota’s recent Green Initiative launch. It’s an amazing statistic and it’s a statement that speaks to more than just car sales and good business, it also speaks to the fact that Toyota has long been a leader in the world’s gradual shift toward a kinder, gentler planet.
The Green Initiative, which was launched at Bowie State University near Washington, DC, is the latest point of Toyota’s eco-spear. It’s aimed at the perfect sweet spot for ensuring the future: our youth. Traveling across the country to visit 25 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the program's goal is to encourage college students to adopt a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Perhaps even more important, the Initiative makes it easy to understand what exactly "going green" means. Sure, we all know the basics, like showers conserving more water than baths, but where Toyota’s Green Initiative excels is expanding the definition of what it means to be green.
Lance Gross, of the TBS sitcom House of Payne, is one of the Green Initiative’s Coalition members who is visiting HBCUs with Toyota. His approach for reducing his own carbon footprint is deceptively simple. He makes the conscious choice to buy energy efficient light-bulbs, his LA condo is equipped with Goldstar energy rated devices and the kicker?
“I’m getting a hybrid on Monday,” he says with the trademark half-smile that has made him so popular with the ladies. The hybrid headed toward Lance’s garage is the Toyota Highlander, one of the few SUVs in the world that can claim 28 eco-friendly highway miles per gallon. Plus, the Highlander has more than enough street swag for a star of Lance’s caliber.
Other Coalition members include Zakiya Harris and Pandora Thomas, who run Earthseed LLC and Grind for the Green, a youth-driven organization that uses social marketing and events to promote the benefits of a greener lifestyle. Not only do they put on unique events, such as a Talib Kewli concert where the sound stage is run by solar power, they also provide practical advice about green living, like buying clothes at consignment stores and choosing better food for its health benefits. “There’s room for trees and texting,” joked Zakiya. A sentiment that appeals to younger generations.
If the Green Initiative hits its mark, it will result in a whole crop of African-American youth who know how to live their lives in tune with Planet Earth and who are lining up to buy hybrid vehicles as a matter of course. Jim Colon is willing to bet that most of those new hybrid purchases will still be a Toyota.
Photography Ken The Photographer
1: Toyota's Prius on Bowie's campus
2: Lance Gross with with (l-r) Pandora Thomas, Toyota’s Jim Colon and Zakiya Harris
3: SekouWrites and Lance Gross