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Environmental Issues

Sustainable ‘green’ successes

May 06, 2011
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Six years ago, I entered the carwash industry with a Water $mart Eco Detailing model. I became passionate about water, and built many water industry relationships. Then I got appointed to my city’s planning commission, which handles land use and makes decisions on residential and commercial building, planning and code enforcement. I was also elected to the sanitary district which handles solid waste and sewer, further broadening my knowledge and Rolodex.

I believe everything builds on itself. Knowledge gained in one area is applied to another. And like most, I have been hustling during the “Great Recession.” I thought I would share a couple of my recent interesting and relevant topics, in hopes to inspire sustainable behavior and creative thinking.

Ecologic customers rent an environmental experience in LEED facilities at individual Eco Pods. Ecologic Transportation, Inc.

This company encompasses three separate but integrated operations that address the environment and transportation holistically:

1) Ecologic Car Rentals will consolidate multi-regional independent car rental companies, with plans to create a car rental company that is environmentally friendly in its products and practices. Ecologic is focused on introducing environmentally friendly vehicles to a growing demographic of car rental customers, in the $42 billion automobile rental industry, who value the cost efficiencies and environmental benefits of green-powered transportation.

2) Ecologic Systems will focus on clean fuels and a platform for emerging environmental transportation technologies.

3) Ecologic Products delivers solutions like carwashing (Ecologic Shine™) and oil changes, etc.

Following the signing of an exclusive agreement with KO Manufacturing Inc., the manufacturers of Ecologic Shine™ products, Ecologic began the research and development of new approaches in delivery systems. To have a high-volume mechanized process for Ecologic Shine™ will allow the company to achieve two of its stated goals: Reduce the amount of labor in the environmental waterless cleaning process, reducing costs and improving margins.

This will provide the ability to bid on large fleet business. Ecologic Transportation, Inc. has been in discussions with U.S. car dealerships, international car dealerships and international commercial fleet operators to begin cleaning their fleets using the Ecologic Shine™ process. This is a substantial step toward the expansion of Ecologic Shine™ to other commercial, corporate and government fleets.

Ecologic is also in the process of developing solutions around a green oil change process and other technologies to green up a black vehicle fleet.

This is a funded, publically traded entity that is endeavoring to change the way many cars will be cleaned in the future, conserving water, improving water quality and introducing the convenience of bringing the carwash to the vehicle.

Spencer Brown Rent-A-Green Box

Spencer Brown (pictured right), a world-renowned product designer, eco-entrepreneur and recent winner of the 2010 Green Entrepreneur of America has built his entire company on manufacturing packing and moving products from 100 percent post consumer trash. These famous green boxes are the replacement for using new or used cardboard boxes when packing and moving. His revolutionary product is the first comprehensive, zero-waste, environmentally-friendly packing and moving system developed entirely from post consumer trash, mined from local landfills. Recopacks, rented direct to consumers, can last for 400 round trip uses.

Think of his business as a local Green Rental Service that is similar to renting a tuxedo, DVD or even party supplies. By renting a product for the time you need to use it instead of buying it, the consumer saves up to 50 percent on their moving costs. Recopacks are delivered direct to the client’s location. They are then cleaned, sanitized and rented to the next client. By sharing resources and doing more with less, Rent-A-Green Box is cheaper, faster, more convenient and greener than using a cardboard box to pack and move.

But here was their dilemma: How do they clean the boxes, in an environmentally-friendly way, consistent with their eco friendly business model? With rapid expansion plans and franchise locations ready to open up across America, how will they develop a wash model for each geography, and deliver a spotless Recopack every time? Considering their Green Delivery Systems in different climates, they needed a custom tailored cleaning system that ensures a spotless and sanitized box every time, for every client.

This situation demonstrates the versatility of what many call a waterless model. They introduced a low volume, environmentally friendly wash product, with a system that delivers reliable and repeatable results, driving efficiencies. The solution is to have a sprayer system at the warehouse that has a reservoir for the waterless, a pump, hose and sprayer to dispense the waterless, some microfiber towels, and some other detail industry tools to achieve quality with any presenting box scenario. Include compressed air and you have a simple and cost effective Eco-Wash process. To prevent back and forth to the warehouse, to minimize gas consumption and carbon footprint and to save time and money, a micro system was placed onboard the truck so the crew can wash in the field when appropriate.

This solution has been so effective that their Green Delivery System and Waterless Box Washing System have others green with envy.

An additional green profit center?

Low Impact Development (LID) is a new term that has been introduced into the NPDES MS4 Permit process in many regions. The permit regulates discharge into the storm drains to protect U.S. waterways. LID says that a new development must retain all storm water on site, up to the 85th percentile, or the 100-year storm.

Here is picture and blueprint of a water feature going up above a water reclaim unit.

I was looking at some plans for a new development. The developer and consultants were discussing several LID solutions for retention, like bioswales, rainwater harvesting, permeable pavers, etc. I asked what was that thing in the middle of the community? “A carwash,” they replied as we all had an “a ha” moment.

Here is a picture and blueprint of a water feature going up above a water reclaim unit.

Lately, many of the projects I have reviewed have focused on assessing onsite resources as assets. I have looked at all existing assets and how to use everything to an advantage.

Example of a Rain X Change System. If a carwash has a facility to capture water, clean it, then it can convey the water for creative reuse, it could be the local community asset to treat storm water. The carwash would be closed during rain falls, and an asset sits idle.

If located next to a big box store, some air conditioning can generate 2,500 gallons of water a day, and you could clean it and irrigate with it. Seems practical and feasible.

Another project, a Mall, was converting an oil change facility with a basement. They used the basement as a cistern to treat and store 200,000 gallons of water. You could add a water fountain as a landscape architectural feature to showcase your water reuse.

I hope that this helps to get the creative juices flowing. To recognize that waterless will never be the dominant model in the carwash industry, but it does have a place. I hope this encourages you to rethink the assets that they have, to drive value and maybe even an additional profit center.

Jim Fitzpatrick is a contributing columnist, focusing on green and sustainable ideas. He can be reached at

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