When a company says it is going green this means the organization is becoming more environmentally aware and implementing changes to reduce the amount of pollution and waste it generates. Whereas eco-friendly refers to the use of products that won’t harm the environment and sustainability refers to practices that won’t deplete natural resources.

            For example, it is possible to obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for commercial buildings. The LEED certification program is sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and is designed around the concept of sustainability.

            The best way to achieve LEED certification is to incorporate environmentally friendly construction methods, sustainable materials. and energy-efficient systems into the overall building plans. Obtaining LEED certification isn’t easy and it isn’t inexpensive.

            Achieving meaningful reductions in energy, water use, and waste from baseline values requires significant capital investment. According to USGBC, LEED certification has many requirements for businesses and requires deliberate planning. This includes creating a business plan; establishing goals; engaging LEED-certified architects, engineers, and planners; registration; and navigating the application review process.

            Eco-friendly is less intrusive and can be as simple as using car wash products labeled as biodegradable. Biodegradable means products will breakdown naturally without harming the environment and do not contain hydrofluoric acid, phosphates, and other harsh chemicals. Consequently, eco-friendly is a buzzword and bandwagon that any car wash operator can dovetail on.  All it requires is using such products and telling customers about it.

            Advancing from eco-friendly to going green requires more. For example, car wash operators can join the  International Carwash Association’s WaterSavers program. To become a participant, applicants must verify that the car wash location reclaims or recycles water and discharges effluent to a sanitary sewer or leech field. WaterSavers car washes use an average of no more than 40 gallons (151.5 liters) of fresh water per car.

            Other practical methods to reduce water consumption include installing lower flow nozzles, operating at lower pressure, installing low-flow toilets, and reducing the number of high-pressure water applications. Energy consumption can be reduced by installing LED lighting and dryer enhancements such as air gates, variable frequency drives, and soft starters.

            Waste can be reduced by using hyper-concentrated chemicals. Environmental benefits of concentrates are fewer packaging materials, more efficient shipping, more space in mechanical room, and no 55-gallon barrels to dispose of.

            Installing solar panels to generate electricity is becoming more popular. In 2021, solar generated just 3.0 percent of all utility-scale electricity. According to Pew Research Center survey, 8.0 percent of U.S. homeowners said they have already installed solar panels. An additional 39 percent have given serious thought to it.  Some car wash operators have also gotten into solar panels.

            For example, a 5-kW solar panel system suitable for a small self-service wash might cost $25,000 before any tax advantages and savings of about $2,000 or so per year. Material savings will require a much bigger kit and a bigger car wash. For example, a 50-kW solar kit capable of generating 50,000 watts of grid-tied electricity may cost around $80,000 plus installation fee, sales tax, and freight. The system requires up to 4,000 square feet of space (i.e., roof mount) and at least five sun hours per day with unobstructed south-facing view of the sun.

            Unfortunately, solar panels do have a downside. China controls the supply chain (U.S. has one percent), and mining the materials and producing solar panels are horrible for the environment.

Bob Roman is a car wash consultant. You can reach Bob via e-mail at bob@carwashplan.com or by visiting www.carwashplan.com.