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Giving ‘Green’

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From the growth in recycling and conservation efforts to increasing alternative energy sources and electric vehicle production, it’s clear that the “go green” movement isn’t going away. Moreover, many of today’s eco-conscious consumers are looking to align their spending dollars with businesses that share a similar viewpoint.

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By adding a “green” component to your marketing efforts, your shop could grow its customer base.

The tire business certainly aligns with many opportunities to go green – from recycling programs to efficient lighting upgrades and eco-conscious business practices – but when it comes to truly making a difference, consider supporting an eco-friendly charitable cause, as well.

Whether you prominently market your shop’s green involvement or take a more subtle route, only mentioning such charitable efforts on social media or your website, for example, customers likely will find out and take note.

Not sure which causes to support? We spoke with several dealers who make a point to “green” their charity efforts as a way to provide some inspiration.

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Eco-Friendly Charities

Whether it’s providing monetary donations or manpower for a local charity or national organization, tire dealers are stepping forward.

Little Tire Co. Tire Pros, with three locations in Fredericksburg, Va., has supported Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) for more than a decade. The group, which aims to “be the voice and active force for a healthy and scenic Rappahannock River,” works through advocacy, education and restoration, David Little, owner of Little Tire, says.

“We grew up fishing, swimming, tubing, camping and canoeing in the river,” he says. “While we need to improve and grow our communities, we also need to look after the resources that help make up the community. The Rappahannock…is like so many rivers around the country that need to be protected so that others can enjoy it.”

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Little Tire’s membership fee goes toward supporting FOR’s efforts. The shop also serves as a “River Champion” sponsor of the organization’s annual Rappahannock Riverfest fundraiser.

“In the past, we’ve donated a set of Michelin tires and the installation of these tires to the auction,” Little recalls. “We also support FOR by discounting work we perform on its vehicles.”

Also dedicated to keeping its community clean is Reese’s Tire & Automotive Tire Pros, located in Cottonwood, Ariz.. The dealership supports Folksville USA, a collection of 30 Arizona Department of Transportation Adopt-A-Highway groups that work to rid local highways of litter.

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The dealership specifically supports Folksville USA’s “America the Beautiful” and “BagReadyJobs” initiatives, which are funded by local businesses and residents and give area youth organizations the opportunity to clean up roadside litter to earn money for their groups, according to Neil Dixon, Reese’s president and CEO.

For roughly 15 years, Reese’s has provided breakfast at the shop for volunteers who gather to clean the highways on Saturday mornings. After litter has been collected and bagged along the roadside, Reese’s staff uses the company’s road service trucks to gather the bags, taking them to a facility that sorts the trash and removes recyclables.

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“We’ve always agreed with the cause; (the highways) are how visitors come into our area,” Dixon says. “People don’t want to come into an area that’s lined with garbage. We’re in a unique area that’s very beautiful and we want to keep it that way.”

Fox Tire, located in Buffalo, N.Y., lends support to an established eco-friendly organization, as well as spearheading its own effort to add green space to the city.

Eric Fox, the dealership’s president, serves on the board of Re-Tree Western New York, which was formed in 2006 after a massive snowstorm took down roughly 30,000 trees in Buffalo and the surrounding area. Since inception the group has raised funds and replanted more than 5,000 trees, according to Fox, who describes himself as a “rogue tree planter,” planting many trees on his own, outside of the charity.

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Fox Tire currently is undertaking its own green cause, working with the city to transform vacant lots into “pocket parks” to improve the community.

“We want to acquire vacant lots on the east side of Buffalo, which is the lower income area, and turn them into small parks that Fox Tire will maintain,” Fox says, adding that starting this year, the dealership’s goal is to establish two parks each summer. “The inner city has been plagued with houses that have been so run down that they get demolished. The lots have become dumping grounds for garbage and many are weed-filled eyesores. This is just a really positive thing we can do for our area and it won’t cost the city anything since we’ll be footing the bill.”

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Green Business Practices

In addition to supporting eco-friendly charitable causes, each of the dealerships mentioned above employs green business practices.

Little Tire recycles oil and utilizes waste oil heaters, according to Little, who adds the company also uses outside vendors for recycling programs for tires, batteries, oil filters and antifreeze.

In addition to similar recycling programs, Reese’s takes advantage of Tire Pros’ re-refined oil program, which offers its dealers national account pricing on Safety-Kleen’s products and services, including EcoPower reclaimed motor oil. Safety-Kleen’s refining process removes contaminants from used oil, resulting in a new base oil that’s cleaner than virgin base oil made from crude, according to the company.

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Fox Tire heats seven out of the nine buildings on its 5-acre property with waste oil heaters and is in the process of changing all lighting to LED bulbs. The dealership’s most prominent green business feature, however, is a green roof that was installed in 2010.

The 30-by-30-foot roof required the former roof be removed and new I-beams installed to support the weight.

“It was a bigger project than I anticipated,” Fox recalls. “There are beneficial factors – like the fact that it retains more heat – but I did it more to make a statement because we’re always interested in supporting different environmental causes.”

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Though the project did garner attention – Fox Tire made the front page of the local newspaper’s business section – for the time and expense, Fox says he likely wouldn’t do it again.

“I’m proud we did it, but for the cost we could have made a bigger environmental impact by planting a few thousand trees,” he notes.

Courtesy Auto Service & Tire of Tacoma, in Wash., is a prime example of a dealership that makes a big effort to employ green business practices. The company began “greening” its business in 2008 and has since made several changes: recycling all paper products and scrap metal; working with a scrap tire recycling company; utilizing a waste oil heater in the shop; eliminating lead wheel weights; and retrofitting all lighting in the shop, warehouse and showroom, plus outside security lighting, from T-12 fluorescent and incandescent lighting to efficient T-8, CFL and LED lighting.

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“As businesses, we need to follow practices in our communities that may mitigate (harmful) practices that can affect where we live, what our kids and grandkids grow up inheriting,” says owner Scott Welsh. “As a whole, the Northwest is a environmentally conscious market and I believe consumers are aware of poor environmental practices – so we do things that showcase our good practices and help the environment.”

He adds there also are cost savings associated with adopting environmentally friendly practices, such as lighting.

Complete the Marketing Path

While eco-friendly charitable efforts may be a personal passion and green business practices might be for cost-saving reasons, it’s worthwhile to consider making these initiatives part of a marketing plan.

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For example, Courtesy Auto displays an EnviroStars certificate at its location, as well as promoting the certification on its website and in other communications. Welsh says the shop has received positive feedback from its customers, employees and other local businesses.

Little Tire educates current and potential customers about its recycling efforts and waste oil heater by including a small statement on its email quote system, Little notes.

Fox Tire takes a subtle route, not mentioning the green roof, tree planting and other green practices in its marketing efforts. Still, when the shop does receive recognition from outside sources, customers offer positive feedback, according to Fox.

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Regarding its support of Folksville USA, Reese’s leaves the marketing to Gary Chamberlain, the organization’s founder. “Gary is a very out-front guy in this cause,” Dixon notes. “He spearheads marketing for the organization and we benefit from that.”

The dealership does, however, market its EcoPower oil program and recycling initiatives on the radio, on coupons and on its website. When permitted, the shop places stickers about the oil program on the city buses it services.

“Customers definitely appreciate it; we have a group of people who come in and thank us for doing these things,” says Dixon, who adds that because he serves on the Tire Pros Dealer Council, he gets many opportunities to speak about green business practices.

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“The more people who get involved, the more traction (the trend) will have,” Dixon says. “It’s important today, and it’s not that difficult. It just takes being aware of what’s going on out there and taking advantage of opportunities to make the business cleaner. Keeping the world clean for our children and our grandchildren has to start somewhere.”

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