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In order to create a plan that will be effective in developing a green car wash, you need to look at your site as a whole. You need a comprehensive plan to look at every opportunity to implement environmentally friendly ideas. Remember, you can start small and build on a plan to impact all areas of your business. Offering recycling containers is a customer facing initiative that will be easy to implement and have a great impact right off the bat. Be consistent, to have a great green initiative in place, like recycling, but your wash has leaky valves that waste water is hardly being green and offsets any other step towards your green plan. It's important to make sure that what you do and market as green, truly is green and reverses negative impact to the environment.
It’s important to leverage innovation where you can to help support your green initiatives. EnergyStar.gov, long known for rating energy efficient appliances for the home and industry, is a good place to start when looking for highly efficient equipment. There are some types of appliances and equipment that you might purchase with Energy Star ratings. These will provide you with a green advantage. This site also offers all kinds of helpful information to small businesses to develop an energy savings plan utilizing the latest in innovation.
As part of planning, take advantage of grants, loans and incentives that may be available in your community or state. Visit SBA.gov to see the numerous programs available for small businesses that take on green initiatives. In Canada you can check with Natural Resources Canada for opportunities along these lines.
Above all, as you look at your business and discover ways to add green initiatives, develop a plan. Outline all the things you see as opportunities to work them into the plan. Start with what's easy and economical then add initiatives as your time and budget allows.
In general, when selecting chemicals to align to your green initiative, you want products that will perform but do not have a negative impact on the environment. Look for the latest in innovative products. Products considered green are free of HF/ABF, NPE, aromatic solvents, formaldehyde and are biodegradable. Use just what you need to get results. Less chemical, no matter how green they are, will always offer less impact to the environment and save you money.
Here's ICA's Stance on HF/ABF from February 2010
"HF and its precursors (ABF) are sometimes used as ingredients in certain 'heavy duty cleaning' products, including wall cleaners and wheel cleaners. Because of the unique hazards and human toxicity of HF and ABF that can cause catastrophic personal injury and because of the necessity of proper training and protective gear for the handling and use of HF and ABF in a car wash environment, the Association strongly recommends that car wash owners not use HF or ABF."
Detergents tend to be more harmful so look for soaps free of phosphates and that are biodegradable. Some communities have banned the use of phosphates in commercial car washes. Biodegradable detergents breakdown to non-environmentally hazardous materials in waste water treatment and are the better choice for a green wash.
When selecting specialty products know what is in them. Tire dressings, for example, when water based have very low environmental impact; solvent based products tend to have more severe impact.
Sealants and Drying Agents generally adhere to the vehicles yet some will end up in waste water. The biodegradability of these products is low but they are applied in very low volumes. Making good decisions when selecting products can put you in a world of green.
Consider packaging when making any purchase. Are cartons, bottles, liners and protective layers in packaging recyclable? Packaging represents about 65% of household trash. One third of an average dump site contains packaging materials. Making sure you are able to recycle packaging materials will have less impact on the environment.
I referenced reclaim systems to reduce water use. It is, in fact, profitability that drove the need for reclaim. A tremendous savings in water and sewer bills can come from the use of a reclaim system. They are expensive to purchase and require management of the system but the water and sewer savings are huge and can pay for the initial costs quickly.
If you have a water softener, or R.O. (Reverse Osmosis) System, the reject water from these systems can often be used for mid-tunnel rinse or sometimes for watering lawns and site landscaping. When selecting landscaping for your site, you should chose drought tolerant plants, shrubs and trees that require little water.
In general, look for leaks, worn nozzles in your wash. Make sure all of your equipment is in good working order to avoid water waste. The higher the pressure on your wash the less water is needed for cleaning and rinsing.
Adding a rain barrel or two to collect water for plants is effective and if you are ambitious, a rain garden on your roof can provide water direct from nature.
Check out Water Savers at www.carwash.org for more information on water savings tips.
Conservation of Energy
Innovations in energy savings can be found for all of your business functions. Lighting has evolved to very highly efficient fixtures and bulbs that can provide more light using less energy with savings that will cover the cost to purchase in a relatively short time. Energy credits and incentives for efficiency upgrades can be found at business.gov or from your local utility company.
Make sure your equipment is sized right for its intended use and is well maintained. Any leaks in your compress air equipment can also require more energy.
Solar energy has also evolved into new and more affordable systems to heat water for use in the wash or for heating purposes.
Another opportunity to save energy and to save money is to install vacuums with variable frequency drive or VFD. Mostly used in the dairy industry for milking, this keeps vacuum levels optimum and varies as use increases. The start up on these units is gradual which avoids the costly surge of electricity when the unit is turned on. According to Wisconsin Public Service, a supplier of electricity, this addition can save 50% of energy use.
What can you do right away?
There are a few things you can do quickly to get you started towards a green car wash. Place recycle containers at your vacuums and pumps next to your trash receptacles. If you can recycle plastics, paper, aluminum and glass in one container, that will be all you need. Otherwise you will need to supply dedicated containers for each material being recycled. Upgrade your lighting. What you are paying your utility company today for current electricity can be dropped by as much as two thirds by going to brighter highly efficient lighting. That two thirds savings can cover the cost of the lighting upgrade. (Source: Orion Engineered Systems) Evaluate your chemicals and make sure they are safe for you, your employees and the community. Look to other solutions suppliers and compare their green aspects to others. Start sharing what you have done to preserve the environment to your community.
Next month: Marketing your Green Car Wash
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