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Business Operations

Giving back in green

October 11, 2010
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As owner/operators we are all extremely busy maintaining the status quo and daily operation of our carwashes and detail shops. Equipment repairs, employee issues, supplier relationships, accounting and payroll — and that’s not even getting into the issues related to the reason for our existence; our customers.

It’s hard to imagine squeezing in another meeting or time away from our store, but even in bad times — and especially in good times — we must continue to reevaluate our business and our industry, and how they are perceived within the communities in which we live.

Becoming involved
As business owner/operators, we cannot afford to lose sight of the goings on within the local community. This means more than just grabbing the local newspaper once a day (or week) and scanning the headlines; it means getting involved and becoming a part of what’s happening.

There are clearly a number of ways an operator can reach out to his community. Some ideas for groups to become involved with include:

  • A Rotary or Kiwanis club;
  • Your local church;
  • Veterans group; or
  • Children’s sports group.

No matter which community organization you choose to help, it must be viewed as a normal part of your busy month. Community involvement can help your carwash to stand above the rest. Neighbors and community leaders appreciate businesses that give back time, energy and resources.

Then take a green step forward
In addition to regular community involvement, carwash and detail shop owner/operators should consider supporting environmental stewardship through participation in organizations that promote bettering our environment through conservation and educational activities.

Unfortunately for the carwash industry, perception is often reality and many consumers still consider carwashes to be water wasters. Fresh water is fast becoming one of our most precious commodities, especially in areas of the U.S. now contending with years of drought.

Despite the fact that most restaurants and hotels use far more fresh water on a monthly basis than do carwashes (especially those that reclaim), the “reality” is that our communities perceive the carwashing business as one of, if not the biggest user of fresh water.

How can owners/operators compete with this perception? Aside from expensive marketing and/or media campaigns, owners/operators can give of their own time and resources in a number of ways to help their community and their community’s leadership better appreciate all that our industry does to promote environmental conservation.

Start a green charity campaign
One of the more popular ways to do this is through the promotion of “Save Water” and “Save the Environment” campaigns directed at school and church programs in need of fundraising. As the summer months approach, the group of gregarious teenagers washing cars in the local grocery store parking lot, wasting who only knows how much fresh water, (never mind the sordid list of chemicals and toxins being flushed into adjacent storm sewers) will become an all too familiar sight. The charity carwash is an absolute environmental nightmare and most communities don’t even realize the dangers.

Many operators are now offering fundraising groups a more environmentally-friendly approach to washing cars and raising money for their worthy cause. Establishing and marketing this type of program can be time consuming initially. However, if accomplished with the right frame of reference, you can “give back” to your community through the very act of promoting sound environmental stewardship.

Call the Chamber
Another valuable use of an owner/operator’s time can be through his local Chamber of Commerce. Most of us are aware of the Chamber’s primary role and how it supports local businesses through educational and networking forums and by sponsorship of local and state government initiatives supporting the business community. But were you aware that most Chambers also sponsor workshops and forums dedicated to the environmental health and safety of the community and of the community’s businesses?

Although many of the businesses that have direct involvement in these forums are industrial in nature, the professional carwash industry has just as big a stake in preserving our environment, if not a bigger stake in preserving our respective balance sheets. Becoming actively involved in these forums will give owner/operators the opportunity to educate local business and government on the very nature of our business and how we all strive to preserve and protect our natural resources.

Our local example
We at Diamond Autospa and Lube, in northeast Georgia, have taken this message to heart. In the past few months, we have developed a relationship with the Lake Lanier Association (LLA), an organization dedicated to, among many things, preserving and maintaining Lake Lanier’s cleanliness and water quality. It is our intent to support LLA’s activities through our participation in regular shore sweeps, whereby Diamond employees will help pick up trash and debris along the lake’s shoreline.

Since the carwash business is viewed primarily as a water business it is critically important for our communities to understand our collective role in preserving these resources through reclamation and filtration activities and through our support of organizations such as the LLA. As time goes on, Diamond Autospa and Lube will team with the LLA in promoting these and other activities to better educate the local public about professional carwashing and its positive impact on the environment.

There are countless organizations dedicated to promoting clean water and clean waterways in communities throughout the country, join one today and become a part of the solution in the eyes of the customers you serve. In doing so, you and your employees will likely gain a better appreciation to the word sustainability and its meaning within our industry.

Do something today to show how we, as an industry, appreciate and value the environment. It could be starting a fundraising program that promotes the preservation of scarce resources through professional carwashing. Perhaps you prefer personal involvement in a Chamber of Commerce environmental educational activities. It could be through direct and visible support to those organizations that are dedicated to clean lakes, rivers, and streams. Whatever your action, become an active participant in solving the issues faced by our communities and through these activities, our communities and industry will continue to prosper.


M. Scott Ballard is the director of operations and marketing for Diamond Auto Spa and Lube in Gainesville, GA.