Green Dealer Support

August 31, 2014, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Going Green, Green Facts | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


In more general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes.I think I first knew about that word in some form from my track coach when I was running cross country. He tried to impress on all of us that in order to do well we had to be able to “sustain” the pace. We needed to hold back a little as the race went on so that as we reach the point of only having 1,000 yards left to go we could we could really push it and pass all those other guys who had moved out in front of us earlier in the race.

It my business I find another version of this to be true, which is; that even when times are good, I need to resist going out and spending all the money in the bank, just because it is there. I need to be able to “sustain” the operation of the business for the long run. If I don’t have that long range plan I could find myself running out of steam (money) at the wrong time.

There is of course the definition of sustainability that relates to the environment. I know there is a lot of conversation about this. Many people would tell you that they believe that Global Warming and Climate Change are all part of the evolution of time and that we should not get too concerned about these thing. We have been seeing storms and droughts for years and that all seems to be just part of the way things change over time.

For me, I am concerned that people that live in Norfolk VA are seeing high tides cause more issues. I am also concerned that a group of scientist is warning that Climate Change is going to have a big impact on all of us. I guess time will tell how serious all that is. In the mean time, what is a person to do?

I think we can make it a little simpler and manageable by breaking it down into some smaller pieces. I am going to take a stab at that because it seem to me that when most people are looking at the entire issue of environmental sustainability they find it has almost has too many moving parts.

My approach is to look at three components with the idea that I can understand it I can, in my own way, have an impact on all three. The three pieces I personally can work on are:

  1. Energy
  2. Water
  3. Waste

A lot of the use of resources such as Energy and Water is based on population growth as well as how well we live. In 1927 we reached a world population of 2,000,000,000 people. By 1974 we had  doubled that to 4 billion and it is estimated that by 2026 we will double that again to 8 billion. All those people use up a lot of energy and water and create a lot of waste going into landfills. And from 1927 until now most of us are each using a lot more resources.


Here is what I see going on with energy. The scientist tell us that for some time we are using energy faster that what we are producing it. The numbers are huge as to how much faster we are using energy that we are making it. The fact is, however, we have a big stockpile to draw from. But, we also have the issue that we are using it faster all the time. The debate seems to be how soon will we run out. If we keep doing this, sooner or later we will run out.

We use energy in many ways, but to keep it simple and look at myself (which may not be the same for everyone), I have a few big uses of energy that I personally could change. One is electricity/natural gas and the other is gasoline. I know I can have some impact on the use of both of them without too much change in my life style.

On the electricity/natural gas one, am already going down the road of replacing in-efficient light bulbs with CFL bulbs or LED. Was it a big deal? At the time it seems like it was. Those incandescent bulbs are really cheap to buy while the CFL’s were a lot more expensive and the LED’s are terrible. However, when you put a pencil to it the LED’s really make a lot of sense. I just had to change my outlook to longer term. My home is heated with Geothermal. It certainly cost more at the outset but again when I look at the long term it was easy to see the cost was much lower.

And then there is the gasoline issue. The car I use for business get almost 30 mile to the gallon, so I feel I am pretty good about that. Last week when I was in California and was going to be spending a week in the car with about 1,500 mile to drive so I had some decisions to make. As I was walking down the National Car Rental row of cars I had some basic considerations in mind. I needed a car that would be comfortable for all those miles and I needed a car with XM Radio and on by the way, it needed to have decent fuel economy. I got all three things I wanted and to my surprise got about 40 miles to the gallon overall.  When my gasoline cost was about 40% less than I normally experienced it was a good reminder to be sure next time to have fuel economy a little higher on the list of requirements. We will all all eventually be driving cars with better fuel economy, like it or not, as we move toward an average fleet of over 50 miles to the gallon.



Being from the Midwest where we have enough water (at least this year) it is sometimes hard to worry too much about any shortage of water. That is until you get to California. Here I saw lot of evidence of how much trouble we are already in for water. I saw lake Shasta where the water level is down about 75 feet. It is that water that irrigates those fruits and vegetables we all love so much. The dryness also had thousand of acres burning out of control in Northern California.

I am not sure how much of this we control but when on the same trip I saw lawns being over watered with runoff going down the gutter, it makes you wonder what it will take to get serious about how we protect our water supply whether it is in California or in Michigan. The fact is we all could be doing things to reduce water usage where ever we are.

It still all can get down to money. Even in the Midwest, water is about a penny per gallon. That does not sound like much until you see the number of gallons that are used by all the people every day with little regard as to how we can reduce usage. Often if is more a matter of how we use it and does not even require measures such as low flow faucets.



This is a big issue for a lot of reasons.

First every time we throw something in the trash and it goes to the landfill there is some chance that we made a bad decision when we acquired it and thus too quickly it became trash. If you want to look at it strictly on dollars out of you pocket, think about what never should have been acquired in the first place. Also think about it along the lines of, could someone else use this or could it be recycled.

Here a a couple of examples:

  1. Plastic bags
  2. Plastic water bottles

It seems that every store is happy to package your purchase in plastic bags. Whether it is the grocery store or the home supplies store, we always seem to have a lot of those plastic bags coming home with us. They do not cost a lot but they sure are a mess to deal with. Most of them end up in the landfill and they stay there forever and ever. At the landfill they add up to a huge amount of space. The alternative is to use those reusable bags we all have accumulated and probably already have in the trunks of our cars.

Those water bottles are a similar problem but here there is a cost you bear that doesn’t have to happen. With drinking water costing about a penny per gallon out of the faucet and bottled water cost a buck the decision is easy.

While I do not have all the answers for being a totally environmentally sustainable world, I have just shown that from my person experience we could all be doing a little bit every day to help. Multiply that times 8,000,000,000 and it starts to get to be a big number.


LED; is Now The Time?
September 10, 2012, 11:40 am
Filed under: Going Green | Tags: , , , ,

A couple of years ago, I would not have recommended to anyone use LED bulbs. They were just too expensive and had a limited number of options where they could be used. Times have changed and I believe we have reached the tipping point where it is practical to recommend that LED be on the consideration list. This technology is rapidly changing and the balance between cost and benefits will continue to grow but waiting may no longer be justified.

There are a lot of good reasons to consider LED:

  • Operating cost-They require about 25% of electricity for the same light output.
  • Quality of light-The crisp output can be more acceptable to many and being able to see colors just like being outdoors.
  • Long Lasting-The numbers are huge when compared to anything else on the market. This can be especially nice if the fixture is hard to get to.
  • Cooler bulb surfaces-The heat produced at the bulb is very low especially compared to incandescent.
  • Instant on-Unlike some bulbs that require a long warm-up time they are on when you flick the switch.

Wanting to practice what I preach I recently started trying to find places in my Green Dealer Support office and in my home where installation of LED would work. It is not as simple as it might seem. I went to places like Lowe’s, Menard and Home Depot on a shopping trip to try to figure it out. What I learned is that I had a lot of decision to make.

First, the price scared me to death. I could not imagine paying $30.00 for a single bulb, especially compared to a bulb I would have paid $1.00 for in the past. It just took a long time for me to build all the advantages into my mental ROI formula.

Next, was finding the right bulb for my application; was it dimmable, would it light the work area the way I wanted, is it the right shape, etc.

In the end I spent a lot of time looking over all the material in the bulb aisle and was still a little confused. I did learn a few lessons that worked for me. First, focus on a limited number of areas at one time. Don’t try to change out the entire office or your home all at one time. At my office where I have canned fixtures with 65 watt bulbs above my work area I decided to start here but even then I did not go back to the office and screw in 13 bulbs at one time. Three  right above my desk was all I needed to get an idea as to how it would look. In the end I liked the change and put them all in. It cost what seemed like a lot of money, but I pay the electric bill for my office and I plan on being there a long time.

There are times when I am not 100% sure about these things and like to watch what others are doing. One recent endorsement of LED was a project in Lane Nora FL where a large number of lamps were replaced with LED with a very good payback. A paper written by an industry professional details many of the more technical aspects of LED lighting and how it works in the real world. Another very interesting video on LED can be found by clicking here.

Green Dealer Support’s role with dealers is to help them become as green as possible. LED lighting is one of the areas we will always be encouraging dealers to explore.

Energy Star Challenge
August 24, 2012, 11:57 am
Filed under: Going Green | Tags: , , , , , ,

Each year in the US, commercial buildings use about $200 billion worth of  electricity and natural gas. It is estimated that about 30% of that is wasted. It is also estimated that 1/3 of the wasted energy could be saved by making changes that do not cost anything. That means $20 billion worth of energy could be saved with a minimal cost.

The Energy Star Challenge is a program that designed to bring attention to these saving and others that can be accomplished with a relative low investment and with a high ROI. When energy is wasted a power plant somewhere burns fossil fuel to generate electricity and emits emissions into the environment unnecessarily.

Green Dealer Support uses The Energy Star Challenge as a tool to help dealers reduce energy cost and communicate their efforts and successes to employees, customers and the community. The challeng encourages participants to; 1) track energy usage, 2) plan for changes and improvements, 3) implement and measure those changes and 4) communicate the energy saving ideas to employees, customers and the community.

Getting set up on The Energy Star Challenge at a dealership is not difficult. The first step is to sign up for the challenge. This gets you listed but does not make you active. To be active you then must submit your story. Energy Star provides you an outline of possible information to include in your story. A typical story includes a few paragraphs that talk about the things you have done to reduce energy usage and possibly what your future plans are.

What is the ROI?
July 24, 2012, 10:18 am
Filed under: Going Green | Tags: , , ,

Dealers I talk to are always telling me that if they are going to do something “green” they would like to have a good Return On Investment (ROI).  In principal, we agree with the need for investments to have a good ROI. The challenge is always how to measure the ROI  By definition ROI is the performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. To calculate ROI, the benefit (return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment; the result is expressed as a percentage or a ratio. 

The formula is pretty straight forward:

Most Investments have some sort of direct $ cost and so that part may be easy to figure. It is the Gain from Investment that is often a challenge.

Take the replacement of an Incandescent 100 watt bulb with a 23 watt CFL. The needed wattage was derived from the n:vision Energy Efficient Lighting Chart. The cost should not be too hard to calculate, next time you are at Home Depot or your local hardware store, figure out the size and color rendition and any other unique characteristics and you will find the cost is $3-7 each. Now you know the cost, let’s call it $5.00.

The Gain from Investment becomes a little harder to figure. Here are some of the items to include:

  • The reduced use of electricity (the easy calculation)
  • The CFL bulb last more than 13 longer than it’s Incandescent replacement
  • The CFL generates a limited amount of heat (AC load)
  • In hard to reach location it requires replacement much less often
  • The image of your business projects to customers and employees
  • The impact on the environment

So the Gain from Investment is a little more complex but in most cases can still be calculated and become part of the ROI calculation.

But making decisions on the impact of ROI on being “green” frequently does not stop with an ROI study. For example in the above calculation some additional things to consider are:

  • What about disposal of CFL bulbs which contain trace amounts of mercury
  • Under some circumstances CFL perform differently than Incandescent bulbs
  • What about other alternatives such as LED
  • What about considerations for ways to keep lights turned off when not needed or harvesting natural light.

Decisions about being “green” are not just a matter of saying you want a good ROI.

Green Dealer Support focuses on helping car dealers become greener and sort through the sometimes complex issues related to the all important ROI.

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