Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Lean, green washing machines

October 11, 2010

Any business that relies on chemicals has even more opportunities to lasso in eco-friendly practices and accountability. The word “chemical” can worry some eco-friendly customers. It’s important to develop a marketing message, and train employees, to be able to educate customers about your chemical use and its effect (positive or negative) on the environment.

Mark Miller, vice president of marketing for Ecolab Vehicle Care, said, “Through 2009, we saw a dramatic increase in carwash owners and operators showing interest in becoming more eco-friendly, which helps drive the demand for more sustainable equipment, chemicals and marketing programs.”

How companies are responding
Supply companies are responding to the green trend in different ways. Miller said manufacturers like Ecolab have developed systems that reduce the need for large drums of liquid detergent. “One of the biggest changes we’ve seen recently,” he said, “has been related to reducing water use and packaging.”

Miller said new packaging helps prevent spills, decreases the risk of lifting injuries for employees, significantly lowers the amount of packaging material and reduces fuel costs associated with shipping. He said many manufacturers have consolidated their cleaning products down from 55-gallon-drums to 7-pound-solid blocks.

Business decisions, according to Miller, are being based on improving sustainable programs, products and services and such decisions are happening every day. “Specifically, we will see demands for reduction of water and energy use continue to evolve, along with a push for more innovative ways to increase recycling practices and improve environmentally responsible chemical solutions that deliver clean, shiny vehicles,” he said.

Bill Gorra, president of Simoniz USA, Inc. which offers a line of Green Scene Car Wash Products, said technology and processes have improved the cleaning results of green cleaning chemicals and products, adding that many years ago, green products simply cost more and didn’t perform as well. “New technology has changed all that and today, it is possible to get a clean care with green chemistry that is cost effective.”

As for equipment, Gorra said the most eco-friendly equipment in the marketplace is a water reclamation system. “As we all know,” said Gorra, “water is a sustainable and expensive resource and how we deal with it is not only important to us as an industry in terms of cost, etc., but also has great relevance to the motoring public and the consumers we service.”

What to look for and use
To use green products and companies, look for companies that use and offer:

  • Eco-friendly packaging materials;
  • Non-toxic chemicals that are biodegradable;
  • Cleaning products that require little or no water;
  • “We are green” marketing materials;
  • A line of “green” products; and
  • Reps knowledgeable of your “green” wants and needs.

And when it comes to chemicals make sure that:

  • They are mixed properly and precisely to reduce waste and spills.
  • Are disposed of properly.

How to educate customers and employees
Marketing your sustainable progress is absolutely necessary, according to Miller. “The ever-increasing number of eco-consumers make purchasing decisions based on the perceived sustainable actions of their providers. But, if you don’t tell your customers about what you are doing to reduce your impact on the environment, they won’t know the sustainable value you offer.” Ecolab is one of the many manufacturers who offer customizable marketing pieces such as banners, posters, windscreens and wash menus.

The marketing tools needed to educate customers and employees are fairly traditional, according to Gorra. “Your equipment or chemical suppliers should be able to supply you with handouts and signage that will communicate your ‘green message’ to your existing customer base.” He also said delivering a green message through local ads or a website will entice new customers, especially the younger and more environmentally-conscious drivers. “There is a strong and growing ‘green’ demographic customer base,” he said, “and it needs to be tapped in to.”