Three Ways Dealerships Can Reduce Their Environmental Impact

By Annika Swenson, Honda and Acura Environmental Leadership Program Manager

With brightly lit showrooms, expansive outdoor lighting, large vehicle service facilities and even onsite car washes, dealerships require a good deal of energy and water to meet the needs of their customers. But our efforts in creating an industry-leading green dealer program have proven that with thoughtful planning and modest strategic investments, dealers can become leaders in environmental performance, and many are.

As the manager of the Honda and Acura Environmental Leadership Programs, I work with dealers across the U.S. to help them take steps to measurably reduce the environmental impact of their operations. Since the programs’ launch in 2011, Honda and Acura auto, power equipment, and powersports dealers have collectively reduced CO2 emissions by more than 123,000 metric tons — equivalent to eliminating the CO2 emissions from electricity use for over 22,000 homes annually — while saving our dealers more than $26 million in energy costs.

Over the last nine years, we have led the auto industry in creating and implementing comprehensive environmental best practices to meet the needs of dealers while also contributing to Honda’s vision for a carbon-free society. We’ve learned a lot along the way and wanted to share some of the major lessons.

Here are three ways dealers and other similar retail businesses can reduce their environmental impact and lower energy costs:

1. Start simple; then raise the bar.

After completing a comprehensive audit of their energy use, we provide our dealers with a range of recommendations to improve their environmental performance. We encourage our dealers to start by implementing low- or no-cost measures with a goal to reduce energy use by 10%. For example, simply turning lights off or down and reducing climate control through thermostat setbacks during closed hours can make a big impact. From there, we work with them on continuous improvement.

This was the case for Honda Power Equipment dealer Smitty’s Lawn & Garden Equipment in Olathe, Kansas, which was committed to improving their energy performance year over year.

After reviewing an initial energy assessment, Smitty’s Lawn & Garden Equipment started small by implementing all our recommended thermostat setbacks and settings. Next, they took a larger step and completed an LED retrofit for all interior and exterior lighting, and installed a 25kW solar PV system that reduced their energy use by 35%. The dealership continued to implement improvements, ultimately reducing their energy use by an impressive 51%. Due to their LED retrofit and solar installation, the dealership is now saving more than $18,000 each year in energy costs and has reduced their annual CO2e emissions by 73 metric tons — equivalent to eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions from over 181,000 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle. These improvements earned the dealership a Platinum award, the highest recognition achievable in our program.

2. Robust data collection and analysis can provide helpful insights.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. That’s why data collection is essential to the Honda and Acura green dealer programs. Using data analytics, we annually work with our dealers to identify opportunities for improvement. By looking at data across dealers, we’re able to establish trends that can be helpful in prioritizing investments, including the following:

Interior LED upgrades: Showrooms and office spaces are more often selected for LED upgrades than service and parts/storage areas. Dealers see benefits in prioritizing customer-facing areas rather than “back-of-house” spaces for aesthetic improvements from LED lighting — in addition to the cost savings potential.

Exterior lighting controls: Nearly two-thirds of all assessed dealerships have digital time clocks, photocells, or other automatic exterior lighting controls, but only one-third use those controls to reduce lighting power during the late night hours. Installing motion sensor controls will reduce late night exterior lighting power. This may seem like a minor adjustment, but the energy and costs savings add up over time.

High-efficiency water fixtures: Overall, we’ve seen significant reductions in water use from dealers in our program, but how they choose to make improvements depends on the age of their stores. For existing dealers, revamping bathroom areas may yield low ROI and require a large effort. On the other hand, design and aesthetic improvements to spaces are prioritized during major renovations and new constructions. This leads to more “updated” bathroom spaces with upgraded toilets, urinals, and faucets/sinks.

3. Take advantage of free resources, like our Green Dealer Guide.

A key component of our program is the Green Dealer Guide, a step-by-step resource for dealers to reduce their energy and water consumption while cutting overhead costs. The free guide helps Honda and Acura dealers track waste and recycling, calculate greenhouse gas emissions and energy reductions, conserve water through efficient water fixtures and use of recycled water, and divert construction waste for new builds. While it was created with our dealerships in mind, any business owner can use the comprehensive guide to improve the environmental performance of their operations.

With the right guidance and energy efficiency recommendations, we believe that every dealer can save money on their utilities while reducing their environmental footprint. A commitment to preserving the environment is also an extension of your support for the community, employees, and customers.

For more information about the Honda and Acura Environmental Leadership Programs, visit https://greendealer.honda.com. On the website, you also can download the free Green Dealer Guide and locate Honda and Acura dealerships that have received Silver, Gold, or Platinum Environmental Leadership Awards.

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