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Published on August 3, 2009

‘Green' costly, can pay dividends

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Opinion

AKRON (Aug. 3, 2009)—Boy, was Kermit the Frog right when the Muppet lamented that it ain't "easy being green."

For one thing, it's expensive—and that goes not only for companies striving to put their best environmentally friendly foot forward, but their customers, as well.

While economic experts of every stripe can't seem to agree on whether we're finally pulling out of this blistering recession, most tire and automotive service retailers in the trenches know what's up. Many have found customers holding off on spending their green on routine vehicle maintenance because their bucks just aren't stretching that far.

And frankly, the "green" programs and services some companies are marketing can be a bit pricey. Hawaii's Lex Brodie's Tire Co. is pushing several ecologically sound promotions under an expansive "One Person, One Vehicle… and the World!" program. The dealership is offering customers a "super vehicle check¬up" that includes use of synthetic motor oil, tire rotation and balancing, a special fuel additive for greater engine fuel efficiency, and other items. But it costs more than a regular tune-up and that scares some consumers away.

Honest-1 Auto Care, a small auto service fran¬chise, is trying to set itself apart from competition, claiming it's "the only national franchise in automotive repair to be 100-percent certified eco-friendly." It has, among a host of offerings, contracted its own line of eco-friendly automotive fluids, provides oil changes using re-refined oil, and markets a 21-point "Eco-TuneUp" package that, admittedly, is more expensive.

As a recent study (see page 15) recommends, a firm's senior leaders should "keep in mind that green initiatives can be undertaken without incurring additional costs. Doing so requires the foresight to allocate resources to the right green investments, funding selectively while helping to advance the company's broader goals."

Still, Honest-1 and Lex Brodie's are on to something. Both promote being green at every turn. Lex Brodie's espouses to the public the benefits of recycling, warning that "one vehicle can have a devastating affect on our environment," and advising on ways to protect the island paradise's waters. That includes repairing vehicle leaks, recycling oil and coolants, returning used batteries, regularly checking tire pressures and even driving less.

Its efforts have even stretched into local schools, where the company encourages students to recycle and pays bonuses to schools that participate. Its well-known caveman caricature/mascot espouses: "Recycling—so easy a caveman can do it!"

Now, a cynic might say the beauty of the program is how Lex Brodie's is subtly ingraining its name in the minds of these impressionable youth/future customers. But dealership President Scott Williams' advice is apropos to other businesses struggling to weigh operating costs against a further outlay of capital to turn themselves greener: "Just get started…then you'll be surprised at how much more you'll be motivated to do….

"You won't even care if it actually helps you be more profitable. Once you're there, it will help you grow! Just like clean air, water and soil helps plants grow, earnest green initiatives will help your community and company grow."

He's right. And, from a saving-our-planet standpoint, it's the right thing to do.

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