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Green Matters: Taking Green on the Road

Delivery and mobile service retailers can cash in—and keep carbon emissions down.
By Wendy Bedwell-Wilson

Ford’s Escape Hybrid provides adequate cargo space for deliveries while ensuring better-than-average fuel economy—and a smaller eco-footprint.
For retailer offering delivery or mobile services—i.e., grooming or aquarium maintenance—it’s not easy being green. Hitting the road for customers means adding carbon to the atmosphere, using Earth’s natural resources and leaving behind a large ecological footprint.

For many shop owners who offer these services, however, their fundamental concern centers on saving another kind of green—their dollar bills. It’s harder to do as gasoline prices haphazardly rise and fall, said Rick Arevalo, president of Aussie Pet Mobile, a mobile pet grooming franchise based in Dana Point, Calif.

“From a cost perspective on the gasoline side, we’ve had repercussions on the prices rising because we do a lot of driving,” he said. “We’ve almost doubled our regular expenses for gasoline.”

The good news is you can be green while saving some green. Here are some ways to do both:

  1. Invest in fuel-efficient vehicles. Hybrids, diesels, alternative fuel vehicles and electric vehicles not only use fewer non-renewable fuels and emit fewer greenhouse gases, but they can also reduce your federal taxes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) fuel economy website, if you purchase one of these designated vehicles, you may be eligible for up to a $4,000 tax credit.
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    Outfit the vehicle(s) with energy-saving extras, said John Stockman, sales manager for Wag’n Tails Mobile Pet Grooming Conversions Inc., a mobile dog grooming van manufacturer in Granger, Ind.
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    “What many groomers are doing now to reduce their carbon footprint is going with a [diesel] Dodge Sprinter van,” he said. “It uses high-tech batteries and an inverter to provide most of the power for grooming. In addition, it comes with a small diesel generator to provide power for high-amperage equipment, such as the air conditioner and high-velocity dryers. The vans get about 18 mpg, which is great for a big mobile grooming van.”
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  2. Drive smart. The EPA recommends going easy on the gas and brake pedals, which can lower gas mileage up to 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent around town. On the freeway, assume that every 5-mph increment over 60 mph costs an additional 24 cents per gallon. Also, use cruise control whenever possible. It helps maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, saves gas.
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    Arevalo recommended cutting the high idle, too.
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    “Normally, when we go to a customer’s house, we leave the engine on high idle, which generates electricity for equipment operation,” he said. “The franchisees decided not to do that any more—it doesn’t make sense right now. The alternator still generates electricity to charge the battery while driving between appointments, plus the battery can be plugged in at night.”
    Bob Collier, owner of Old McDonald’s Pet Food and Delivery in Kansas City, Kan., added that he cuts down on fuel costs and carbon emissions by planning his routes well in advance. That way, he’s not traveling from one end of town to the other, only to go back again.
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  3. Use renewable fuels. Both E85 and biodiesel are renewable fuels that can reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from your car, according to the EPA. E85, a blend containing 85-percent ethanol, is compatible with Flex Fuel Vehicles, of which there are more than 6 million on the road. Biodiesel, derived from natural oils, works with all diesel vehicles. A common blend is B5, which contains 5 percent biodiesel.
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    E85 and biodiesel stations are located throughout the USA. The United States Department of Energy’s website offers maps of stations in particular areas.
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  4. Tune up your ride. A well-maintained car uses fuel more efficiently and reduces harmful emissions. The EPA states that a properly tuned engine gives drivers a 4-percent fuel-economy benefit, saving about 12 cents per gallon. In addition, replacing a clogged air filter can improve a car’s gas mileage by as much as 10 percent while keeping impurities from damaging the engine.
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    Tire pressure also affects fuel efficiency, according to the EPA. Drivers can improve gas mileage up to 3.3 percent by keeping tires inflated to the proper pressure. Moreover, properly inflated tires are safer and longer lasting.
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    “Besides not keeping your engine on high idle and scheduling appointments better, watch your tire pressure and maintain your vehicle,” Arevalo said. “When you’re forced to think about maximizing opportunities for profitability, it’s amazing the ideas you’ll come up with.”
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  5. Spread the word. Customers who utilize delivery and mobile grooming services can actually reduce their own carbon footprints, and many of them don’t take advantage of the convenience, said Collier, who has made more than 50,000 deliveries in his 15 years of business.

“We run fewer miles bringing products to customers than they make running to the store,” he said. “They really don’t realize it. I cover a huge metropolitan area and my average stop is seven to 10 miles per stop, so if you’re farther than five miles away from my store, it’s probably more efficient for me to bring it to you than it is the other way around.”

For retailers looking for ways to reduce their ecological footprints and save money along the way, the answers are out there. They just have to look, Arevalo said.

“There are always options for almost anything,” he said. “There’s always an option in the vehicle you choose, in the products you use. As long as you’re thinking, you can find the options. But they’re not going to present themselves to you if you’re not looking for them.” <HOME>


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