Article

22 Ways to Go Green in Your Dealership

April 2012, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jennifer Murphy Bloodworth - Also by this author


 “Go green.” It sounds easy enough, but where do you start? There are many different things dealers can do to make their operations greener.

A truly green dealership, according to Jim Newman (owner and managing partner of the Newman Consulting Group), is one that’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified (better known as LEED certified).Obtaining LEED certification is a significant undertaking requiring millions of dollars. However, the investment can pay off; Newman explained that dealers who go green can incorporate that fact into their marketing.

“LaFontaine [Cadillac-Buick-GMC] can attest to this,” he said. The newly-built green dealership, which opined in 2009 in Highland, Mich., cost $15 million to build and is a LEED-certified green dealership. Newman said they heavily marketed the fact that they now have a green dealership and received quite a bit of free, positive publicity, and sales increased as a result.

Not too many dealers are willing to drop $15 million to become LEED-certified, but many are willing to start small by implementing some low- to no-cost green initiatives. Auto Dealer Monthly has compiled 22 ways dealers can go green. Please note: it is unlikely that all the items on this list are well-suited for your location due to local climates. For example, the most effective green initiatives in Washington State vary from those that work best in Florida. Be sure to consult a local, experienced professional if you have questions regarding what works in your climate zone.

To help you determine which actions are best-suited for your dealership, we’ve included icons to illustrate the effort and cost required for each item, as well as the potential savings. Remember what it means to go green; it’s about more than saving money. Some of these items are simply good for the environment. 

1. Upgrade to energy-efficient light bulbs.
Many dealerships have already upgraded to greener bulbs (electronic-ballast T8s or T5s) in fluorescent light fixtures. However, many of the energy-wasting T12 bulbs are still in use. If you haven’t transitioned yet, you’ll have to soon because the government eliminated the manufacture of the magnetic-ballast T12 bulbs in 2010, and in July of this year, they will no longer be available for purchase. The difference in cost of the bulbs is minimal, and the energy-efficient ones last longer. “With T8s, they’re so much brighter, you can replace four T12s usually with three or even two T8s,” said Newman. EnergyStar.gov states that by changing from the metallic-ballast T12s to high-performance electronic-ballast T8s, energy savings can reach 42 percent. You can use more efficient bulbs in some standard fixtures by just swapping out the incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).

Effort   • - ••
Cost   $$ - $$$
Potential Savings   $$

2. Install motion sensors.
Installing motion sensors will help cut back on lighting use in rooms that are frequented but not occupied all day (like meeting rooms, bathroom, janitor closets, etc.). If you have someone on staff with the necessary experience to handle installation, motion sensors can cost less than $20 per fixture. There are even sensors that can be screwed into light fixtures. However, it is important to note that there could be liability issues if an employee handles the installation. If you hire a professional, the job is relatively simple and should be completed within a couple hours to a day (depending on the number of fixtures).

Effort   •
Cost   $ - $$
Potential Savings   $ - $$

3. Harness natural light.
Also known as daylighting, using sunlight for lighting purposes can decrease energy consumption by up to 80 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program. One method of daylighting is the use of light tubes. Newman explained, “A light tube has a Plexiglas, or some sort of plastic, device on top of the roof that allows the light to come in, and it has a very shiny round piece of duct – usually a lightweight, shiny aluminum – on the inside … that brings that light [in] and bounces it back and forth. Then you have a diffuser in the space that lets the light come into the office.”

Skylights are another way to use sunlight to help light the dealership. In addition to saving on lighting costs, skylights can also help with heating and cooling costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Effort   •• - •••
Cost   $ - $$$
Potential Savings   $$$

4. Install dimmers.
On days when the sunshine almost completely lights up the showroom or offices, dimmers can be used. This saves on energy costs because the less light a fixture emits, the less energy is used. The installation is similar to motion sensors. If you have someone experienced on staff, they can be installed for less than $20 per fixture, and if a professional handles the job, it doesn’t take long to complete.

Effort   •
Cost   $
Potential Savings   $

5. Recycle.
Put up recycling bins for plastic, paper/cardboard and aluminum in a couple different places in the dealership (think break rooms and other areas where the trash cans fill up quickly). Then, encourage employees to recycle while at work; you may even want to give them the option to bring recyclables in from home. This is a green initiative that can easily be made visible to customers to show them the dealership and its employees are taking steps to help the environment without having to spend to advertise it.

Your fixed operations can also recycle several things, including used engine oil, filters, tires, batteries, scrap metal, wood pallets and antifreeze. The Environmental Protection Agency has many regulations for disposing of these types of things in environmentally-conscious ways, but taking it a step further and recycling (when possible) is the best option for the environment. There is a minimal fee associated with recycling some of these materials.

Effort   •
Cost   $
Potential Savings   *

6. Purchase and stock office supplies made of recycled materials.
This includes printer/copier paper, envelopes, paper towels, toilet paper, paperclips, staplers, notebooks, binders, folders, pencils, and more. You can find almost any office supply containing some amount of recycled material, whether it’s the plastic casing on a pen or the post-its you make notes on.

Effort   •
Cost   $
Potential Savings   *

7. Recycle and reuse car-wash water.
This option is well suited for dealers who are rebuilding their dealerships or adding carwashes onto their existing dealerships, due to the cost involved. Potential savings vary based on the number of cars washed and the price of water in your area. In addition to lessening monthly water fees, it usually also lowers sewer fees. Although it will take time, this green initiative eventually pays for itself.

Effort   ••••
Cost   $$$ - $$$$
Potential Savings   $$ - $$$

8. Choose native greenery.
When landscaping your property, choose native plants. If you’re already planning on spending money on landscaping, the extra effort and cost to use native plants is minimal. You’ll save on water costs because native plants can typically survive on rain when in their natural habitat.

Effort   •
Cost   $
Potential Savings   $ - $$

9. Use vegetable oil to lubricate lifts.
This is another initiative LaFontaine included in its rebuild, using vegetable oil on lifts instead of petroleum-based hydraulic fluid. It requires little-to-no effort or extra cost to implement and is purely an environmental-saving undertaking. Additionally, the vegetable oil is biodegradable, meaning there are no cleanup costs in the event of a leak, and it is just as effective as its environmentally-unfriendly counterparts.

Effort   •
Cost   $
Potential Savings   *

10. Switch to low-emission paint.
Traditionally, dealers have used solvent-based paints in their body shops, but they can upgrade their shops to use less hazardous waterborne paint. This paint emits fewer pollutants known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. California has already imposed regulations for low-VOC-emission paints, and it’s widely noted that similar regulations are expected to become commonplace across the country. A dealership’s current paint operation will dictate the effort and cost required to switch to waterborne.

Effort   ••• - ••••
Cost   $$$ - $$$$
Potential Savings   *

11. Use environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies.
When restocking your janitor’s closet, opt for environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies and equipment. Newman said, “There are a lot of green cleaning products out there today … The price on them has come way down.” If you compare the prices online, you’ll notice there isn’t much variance in the prices between different all-purpose cleaners.

Effort   •
Cost   $
Potential Savings   *

12. Let sunlight power your dealership.
Planet Subaru in Hanover, Mass., runs its showroom on energy from the sun. The dealership’s website states: “We installed a 78,540-watt solar power plant on the roof of our building. The 374 solar panels occupy about a quarter acre of our roof.” In a newspaper article about the dealership’s solar-powered showroom, Jeff Morrill, dealership co-owner, said the project cost $450,000, but was aided by a federal grant of $150,000. He also said the dealership’s electric bill has gone down by about $1,000 a month.

While Planet Subaru went to the extreme with the solar panels, dealers can think smaller and install fewer solar panels to cut costs. Even if the solar power doesn’t run the entire business, the dealership can still save hundreds a month on energy costs.

Effort   •••
Cost   $$$$
Potential Savings   $$ - $$$

13. Keep the roof cool.
Cool roofs are “designed to maintain a lower roof temperature than traditional roofs while the sun is shining,” according to the U.S. Department if Energy’s “Guidelines for Selecting Cool Roofs.”

“Cool roofs are one of the quickest and lowest cost ways we can reduce our global carbon emissions and begin the hard work of slowing climate change,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. A cool roof can reduce roof temperature by more than 60 degrees in some climate zones. The “Cool Roof Design Brief” by Pacific Gas and Electric Company states, “Energy savings due to installation of cool roofs … have been in the range of 7 percent to 34 percent.”

There are several different types of cool roofing, and costs vary greatly. One way to have a cool roof is to paint over the existing roof with cool roof coating, and it’s an inexpensive option if it’ll work on your existing roof.
 
Effort   • - ••
Cost   $$ - $$$$
Potential Savings   $$ - $$$

14. Let your roof come alive.
Incorporating a live roof on an existing structure is typically an initiative that takes quite a bit of effort. Also know as a green roof, live roofs are covered (partially or totally) in vegetation. Auto Mart USA in Honolulu, Hawaii, recently unveiled a rooftop farm that was mainly handled by FarmRoof, a company that will take care of the garden. So in this case, there isn’t much ongoing effort required of the dealership. However, they reap some benefits because live roofs help insulate and cool buildings. Auto Mart USA expects to see a 20-percent energy savings, according to a local news piece on the garden. Dealers who don’t have a green thumb but are interested in this option might consider a solution similar to Auto Mart USA’s and work with a local organization on the project, which is also likely to garner publicity.

Effort   •• - •••
Cost   $$
Potential Savings   $ - $$

15. Treat your windows.
Dealerships are notorious for their tall, window-filled facades, which increase heating bills in the winter and air-conditioning bills in the summer. Treating windows with an insulating window film can lead to a significant savings. According to 3M’s window film savings calculator, a two-story, 60,000-square-foot building in Phoenix, Ariz., that’s 60 percent covered by single-pane clear windows would experience an estimated 11 percent annual savings on its total utilities by adding medium-performance window film. The savings calculator estimated payback time for the cost of the film is less than a year. The same building located in Detroit, Mich., is estimated to save 1 percent in annual utilities with an estimated payback time of slightly less than six years.

Effort   ••
Cost   $$ - $$$
Potential Savings   $ - $$

16. Choose energy-efficient windows.
Replace windows with more energy-efficient ones, and to make them even more energy-efficient, overhangs can be added to mitigate the amount of direct sunlight entering the showroom. Also look for windows with low-emission (or low-E) glass. Low-E glass helps control heat transfer through windows, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and while they can cost about 10 to 15 percent more than regular windows, windows with low-E glass can reduce energy loss by as much as 30 to 50 percent.

Also consider the framing because window frames can conduct heat. The Department of Energy website states, “Overall, vinyl, wood, fiberglass, and some composite frame materials provide greater thermal resistance than metal.” If you do opt for aluminum or other metal frames, make sure they have “a thermal break,” which is “an insulating plastic strip placed between the inside and outside of the frame and sash.”

Effort   ••••
Cost   $$$$
Potential Savings   $$

17. Heat water smarter.
There are several ways to heat water more efficiently and in turn save money on the utility bill. High-efficiency storage-tank water heaters (the most common) use 10 to 20 percent less energy than standard models meeting minimum requirements, according to EnergyStar.gov. Demand, or tankless, water heaters use 45 to 60 percent less energy. Heat-pump water heaters use 65 percent less, and solar water-heating systems use 70 to 90 percent less energy. High-efficiency water heaters have the lowest savings and initial cost and are the easiest to install, while the solar-powered systems cost the most, save the most energy and are more difficult to install.

Effort   •• - •••
Cost   $$ - $$$
Potential Savings   $ - $$

18. Stop flushing money down the toilet (or urinal).
Replace toilets and urinals with high-efficiency fixtures. Many toilets manufactured before the mid-90s use over three gallons per flush, while the newer higher-efficiency toilets use closer to a gallon per flush. High-efficiency urinals typically use between half a gallon and one-eighth of a gallon of water per flush, compared to the one gallon per flush used by less efficient urinals.

Effort   ••••
Cost   $$ - $$$
Potential Savings   $

19. Replace paper towels with electric hand dryers.
“Both hand dryers and paper towels carry an environmental cost … hand dryers are, indeed, the greener option … in about 95 percent of circumstances,” according to the Slate article, “Electric Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels.” The most effective dryers cost around $400 per unit, but will pay for themselves when you consider the cost of paper towels.

Effort   ••
Cost   $$
Potential Savings   $

20. Use recycled building materials.
There are green options for many of the materials used to build commercial facilities. For example, LaFontaine Cadillac Buick GMC features doors that look like they’re made of wood but are actually recycled, compacted corn stalks, while the lot is comprised of recycled asphalt and concrete. Eco-friendly options exist for everything from insulation and siding to bathroom tiles and other flooring options.

Effort   ••••
Cost   $$ - $$$$
Potential Savings   *

21. Upgrade the thermostats.
If you’re not quite ready to shell out thousands of dollars to install a green heating system, a simpler and much more inexpensive way to save on heating costs is to install programmable thermostats. “You can save around 10 percent a year on your heating and cooling bills by simply turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours [a day],” according to The Department of Energy’s website.

Effort   •
Cost   $
Potential Savings   $

22. Unplug.
Ask employees to unplug items like cell phone chargers or printers that are only in use a fraction of the day because even when not in use, these items use energy while plugged in. Newman said, “Plug loads, also called parasitic loads, use up to 10 to 15 percent of the electricity used in a commercial office building. Plug loads are everything you plug in.” While you can’t unplug everything, you can unplug certain items during the work day, or on days the dealership is closed, to make a difference.

Effort   •
Cost   $
Potential Savings   $

Key

Effort  
                         Cost                                     Potential Savings
• = minimal                  $ = $200 or less                   $ = minor 
•• = moderate             $$ = $201 - $1,000              $$ = noteworthy
••• = extensive            $$$ = $1,001 - $15,000      $$$ = significant
•••• = remodel            $$$$ = $15,000+
       

 * = Ways to go green with environmental savings only (the ways that save money also have environmental savings).
       
         
Please note: These figures are provided for reference only, and their accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Specifics on effort, cost and savings vary on a case-by-case basis.

Vol. 9, Issue 2

Comment

  1. 1. Trevor GIle [ April 04, 2015 @ 08:29AM ]

    I really enjoyed it! We are in the process of reaching the award of being the top 10 greenest Honda dealerships in the country. I found some great ideas to incorporate in our journey to be more green.

    Thanks,
    Trevor Gile

 

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