Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Be a green giant: going green is good for the environment and your business.

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC


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Spend 20 minutes watching TV or walking the aisles of your neighborhood grocery store or discount retail chain and one thing will quickly become apparent: Virtually every company is touting the "green" benefits of its products or services.

Consumers like the idea of doing what they can to tread more lightly on the earth, and the collision repair industry seems to fit in a category where environmental efforts can still be a distinguishing market advantage.

Why? First, while it may be hard for a consumer to connect why one kitchen sponge is "greener" than another, they are especially aware of the environmental impact of all aspects of their cars. Second, though the industry's image is much improved, many consumers still don't expect to see environmental concern when they go to get their car repaired. Third, there are some great opportunities within the industry right now to credibly show you're doing your part for the environment.

Make the move to waterborne

Making the switch may be one of the best ways you can promote your shop as easier on the environment than the other guy. All of the paint companies are creating ads, posters and counter-displays to help shops promote their use of water-borne paints.

"They love it." kick Denny, an estimator at Denny's Valley Autobody Inc.. in Puyvallup, Wash., says about his customers' response to the shop's recent switch to water-borne. "The Prius and hybrid vehicle people are obviously a little more into it than others, but overall the feedback we've received is great."

Denny's Valley Autobody has long made environmental efforts part of its strategy, helping it earn a four-star rating in a county agency's "EnviroStars" program. Shop owner Patty Denny uses money a recycler pays for the shop's cardboard for pizza lunches for her crew; takes the bubble wrap from parts to a mailing company that reuses it; and even switched to a corn-based window cleaner.

A voluntary switch to waterborne basecoats was a natural fit for the shop. Rick Denny said he's not sure whether it actually brings customers to the door, but it certainly makes them feel good about deciding to leave their vehicle once they hear about the shop's environmental concern.

Off-set your 'carbon footprint'

Travelers concerned about contributing to global warning can now use a variety of means to buy "carbon offsets." essentially investing in programs - such as wind turbines or other renewable energy sources - that reduce emissions to the same degree their air travel on that trip contributes to it.

Some auto dealers are buying offsets of sponsoring tree plannings to counter the greenhouse gas emissions a customer's new vehicle is likely to produce over its lifetime. A number of organisations, such as NativeEnergy (www.nativeenergy.com) or Terrapass (www.terrapass.com), have an online form that can help you estimate your shop's "carbon footprint," how much carbon-based pollution your business creates. Find that your company generates seven tons of carbon-based pollution? A $98 donation to NativeEnergy invests in non-fossil-fuel energy-producing projects that offset that level. You can tell your customers your business is "carbon-neutral,"

Choose efficient equipment

Denny Boulton equipped a new second location for his business. D's paint and Body Shop in Peoria Heights. III., with new technology intended to make the shop as efficient and "green" as possible. "We chose an ABS Air Systems paint booth because it has a feature that recycles the heat in the booth," Boulton says, which makes it more efficient - and as an added benefit, less costly - to operate.

Boulton also invested in an "Exhausted Air Recycling System," something he has already retro-fitted to his first shop. "It allows us to recycle the air from our air tools," Boulton says, showing how a retrofit on the tool allows a second line to he attached to recirculate the air. "When you're taking new air in, you're taking in moisture and dirt so you have to clean it and dry- it. Now we're taking that clean, dry air and running it back for reuse. It reduces the noise. It reduces the moisture in the air lines. And it saves us energy costs by cutting compressor usage."

Sell the benefits of recycled parts

The 'green' argument may be the right one to help customers feel good abut their choice of a used part. Automotive recycling helps keep more than 4 million automobiles out of landfills every year, according to the Automotive Recyclers Association.

"A lot of people don't think of buying a used auto part as having something to do with recycling," says Shannon Nordstrom, vice president and general manager of Nordstrom's Automotive, an automotive recycling business in Garretson, S.D. "But if you are reusing the parts, you don't have to produce new ones. You don't need new raw materials. You don't need the energy that producing those new parts requires. Reuse is the best kind of recycling there is."

See things in a new light

You may be able to improve the lighting in your shop - something your technicians are sure to appreciate - and save energy and money on your taxes all at the same time.

Tacoma Public Utilities in Washington, for example, offers a rebate of 17 cents per kilowatt hour saved the first year, up to 70 percent of the project cost, to businesses that replace old lighting systems with new, more energy-efficient lighting. Congress has extended until 2013 a 60-cent-per-square-foot federal tax deduction for improvements to lighting in commercial buildings that reduce energy use, and some states offer similar rebates or tax credits (check with your utility or state energy department).

In sunny Sacramento, Bryan Reborn, owner of Autobody Workshop, installed dozens of skylights in the roof above his shop's 12,000-square-foot production area, flooding the area with natural light, eliminating much of the need for electrical lighting.

Meet the 2011 EPA regulation

Going green makes good sense for shops because it can also help them comply with new federal guidelines coming down the road. One such Environmental Protection Agency regulation will place a number of requirements on collision repair shops by 2011. It may require new equipment and practices, but it is also designed to reduce overall toxic material consumption, which can result in savings for the business as well.

Under the regulation, shops will be responsible for ensuring all painters have completed hands-on training in the proper application of surface coatings. All vehicle painting must be done in a spray booth (or, in the case of painting of some parts, a prep station) that meets the regulation's requirements. The booth must be fully enclosed and use a filter system that captures at least 98 percent of the paint overspray. Prep stations must have a full roof, at least three complete walls or complete side curtains, and must be ventilated so that air is drawn into the booth.

The regulation requires that all spraying of coatings be done with a high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) spray gun. All paint spray gun cleaning also must be done either with solvents that do not contain certain hazardous air pollutants, or within a fully enclosed spray gun cleaner.

Some shops may already be in compliance with these regulations. If so, advertise that you meet 2011 environmental regulations now. Tout you use the latest technology to reduce and contain paint overspray. Show that your technicians are getting the latest training to help reduce creation of hazardous waste.

Find power alternatives

Demonstrating to customers your commitment to cleaner, more renewable forms of energy doesn't necessarily require installing a wind turbine or solar panel on your shop's roof. You can let your electrical utility do the work for you.

PacifiCorp, for example, which supplies power to six Western states, is among the utilities that offer customers the option of choosing renewable energy sources--wind, solar, geothermal or biomass - for some or all of their power usage. The added fee can be as little as $2 a month, and the utility helps promote companies that make the switch through its Web site and newsletters to all its customers, and by offering participating businesses window decals and signage.

Work with 'green' suppliers

Choose vendors using good "green" practices and touting their efforts can help your own "green" credentials. If you choose a Spray-Tech or Junair spraybooth or booth accessory system, for example, you can promote the fact that the company's Rialto, Calif., factory recently installed a 440,000-watt solar panel system that offsets more than 25 percent of the factory's power bill. CEO Tyler Rand said the system offsets the company's "carbon footprint" by 120,000 pounds per year, and seemed appropriate for a company whose products help make the transition to waterborne possible for shops.

There are strong business arguments for "going green" even if you've never considered yourself an environmentalist. It may offer your shop a marketing edge. But many of the activities mentioned here can improve the quality of your work, reduce costs, generate new revenue, or improve your technicians' productivity - all things that can add a little more "green" to your bottom line.

RELEATED ARTICLE {also} True green vs. 'greenwashing'

Are you "green" - or just "green-washing?"

As U.S. companies rush to promote the environmental-friendliness of their products and operations, some are overstating or lying about how easy on the environment they really are. It's a practice called "green-washing," and it can come back to haunt not only the business at fault, but others in that industry whose true "green" claims suddenly come under suspicion.

Several government agencies and consumer watchdog groups may help by developing voluntary environmental advertising guidelines or offering some policing of environmental marketing claims.

But shops can help maintain the industry's "green" credibility by only touting their environmental credentials when they're confident they're among the most "green" in the industry, not just doing a little recycling and hanging up an "Earth Day" poster.


By John Yaswick, Contributing Editor

Source Citation
Yoswick, John. "Be a green giant: going green is good for the environment and your business." Automotive Body Repair News 48.6 (2009): 54+. General OneFile. Web. 10 Nov. 2009. .

Gale Document Number:A204075810

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