You’re running a business, not a nonprofit. Like any business, you have production targets you need to hit in order to reach your goals.
So why should you incorporate green initiatives? It’s certainly not a priority. And it’s not going to generate a larger car count. Or can it indirectly?
Let’s get this out of the way first: Running a repair shop that has green policies in place doesn’t make you or your business radical, unorthodox or unconventional. It just represents that you’re forward-thinking and yes – practical.
Many green policies put into place by shops grow out of an awareness that putting them in place just makes sense – from an environmental standpoint and a business perspective.
Todd Scheffer of Scheffer Truck Service in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, installed a rooftop solar system that generates up to half of his overall electricity. He also has a waste-oil heater for his shop, which converts customers’ used oil into heat for his shop in the winter.
“Before owning my own business, I worked at a shop that heated a barely insulated shop with a boiler powered by natural gas,” Scheffer said. “For just two winter months, they could have paid for a waste-oil heater and heated the shop with customers’ used oil that they were paying to get rid of.”
The key with green policies and procedures is they need to make sense. In other words, they need to be practical solutions.
Shades Of Green
There are varying levels of a green shop. It could range from starting to recycle paper and plastics to something more advanced like what Scheffer has done.
Dan Antonelli of Antonelli’s Advanced Automotive in Grand Junction, Colorado, started with recycling plastics, cardboard, cans and bottles. He now heats his building with waste oil.
“My goal was to reduce waste going to the landfill and reduce our consumption of natural gas,” Antonelli says. “Plus I save money using the waste oil.”
Depending on where your business is located, there also could be a marketing upside to instituting green policies. Kate Jonasse is the owner of K-Tech Automotive in Sebastopol, California, which is in Sonoma County. Her clientele is interested in frequenting a local business that has an eye on sustainability.
While owning a green business fits her values and the values of her community, a green strategy needs to be realistic.
“I’m ultimately practical first and foremost. We do what makes sense,” Jonasse says. “For example, the bulk cleaner I purchase is around $900 per 55-gallon drum, which is a high initial cost, but it lasts a long time and is actually cheaper than brake clean.”
K-Tech also is a “Certified Green Business” through the California Green Business Network – which keeps her shop up to date with the network’s conservation and sustainability requirements. She considers it an enhancement to her shop, and it makes people feel good about coming back again and again to K-Tech.
If you do choose to start instituting green policies, don’t forget to tell people. As your shop progresses on each step along the way, update your website on what you’re doing and why. Social media and your shop blog are perfect platforms to promote your sustainability journey. If you start with recycling, post about doing that. If you then begin to include other green policies, update your website. Doing this engages customers in your business. Having a new element of your business to promote is always good – it communicates that you have a vibrant and modern repair shop.
While not directly a revenue generator, being able to promote this to customers is a good thing.
“I think any time you can add one more thing to talk about and edify your business to new and existing customers, the better,” says Lacee Cunningham of Eureka Brake & Automotive in Eureka, California.
Terri Erickson of Automotive Excellence in Rohnert Park, California – also in Sonoma County – has been passionate about environmental issues for the past few decades. Her first step in owning a green shop was to contact her local garbage company for dumpsters. She considers it her responsibility to “leave a better world for our grandchildren.”
As a business owner, each new policy you establish needs to fit the vision and profile of your shop. You may want to include some sustainability strategies because you think it’s the right thing to do. Or you may want to include them because you just don’t like wasting anything; 100 years ago, no one wasted anything because resources were scarce. Take a cue from your great grandparents and consider what you’re throwing away.
Implementing a green program in your shop not only makes sense ethically, but it also might save some cents by reducing shop waste and cutting back on your utility bills. And in this era of heightened environmental awareness, most customers will embrace your efforts to go green.