How do you make a factory greener? Just ask the people at Ford’s Rouge Factory, located in Dearborn, Michigan.

When our team was in Detroit for the North American International Auto Show, we made sure to take a side trip to the Rouge Factory to see what they’ve done to make this iconic factory more environmentally friendly.

Founded in 1917, the Rouge is now known as the home of the F-150. In more recent years it has also become popular for its environmental initiatives. Previously, the land suffered from many of the typical environmental drawbacks found at most factories, including a runoff problem that added significant pollution to the nearby Rouge River. But when Bill Ford Jr. (who shared a passion for the environment in addition to his love of automobiles) took the reins of the company, he decided to do something about it.

According to Ford Rouge Factory Tour manager Cynthia Jones, that includes the world’s largest green roof, which is seeded with a variety of plants.

“It’s about a 10.4-acre roof, or the size of a nine-hole golf course,” said Jones. “It provides insulation for the factory … and also helps with some of the air pollution issues in this area.”

It also includes “porous pavement” in the parking lots around the plant, which allows water to run right through the pavement, where it’s redirected to ponds and treated naturally, instead of running directly into the Rouge River.

Ford has also planted thousands of trees and bushes on the factory land as part of the environmental reclamation of the land, and that’s promoted the return of wildlife to the area.

“We’ve seen a huge return of animals,” Jones noted. “We’re a bird nesting site now. We have the monarch butterfly migration that comes through here. We’ve even spotted coyotes on the site, which is really incredible, considering we’re just a few miles from downtown Detroit.”

If you want to see it for yourself, there’s a public tour at the Rouge Factory. The tour is split into five segments:

  • Legacy Theatre: A short video featuring a look at the history of the Rouge.
  • Art of Manufacturing: A look at how automobiles are made.
  • Observation Deck Tour:  Take a look at the “world’s largest living roof” and check out other exhibits explaining the environmental initiatives at the plant.
  • Assembly Plant Walking Tour: A self-guided look at the advanced assembly line where the new Ford F-150 trucks are made.
  • Legacy Gallery: A look at some historic vehicles made at the plant.

So, the Rouge Factory is focused on living green, but we want to hear about you! Have you taken any steps to live a greener life? Let us know in the comments below.