The green movement isn’t a fad. Environmental consciousness has grown in importance as a contemporary business issue and will continue growing for a long time. Consumer attitudes toward eco-friendly products and eco-friendly lifestyles are pervasive with more people making decisions about where they eat and whom they do business with based on attitudes related to sustainability and environmentally friendly business practices. Studies show people favor products manufactured by companies whose goals include support for a sustainable environment.
Because environmental discussions are more complex than a brief overview can present, my aim here is simply to offer a handful of practical ideas to incorporate into your oil change regimen.
When I wrote about this topic 12 years ago, I began by establishing two assumptions:
1. Quick lubes handle used motor oil more responsibly than those who do it themselves.
2. The general public is increasingly concerned about environmental issues.
I attempted to demonstrate quick lube operators are in a position to market themselves as heroes in the battle to preserve our environment. As recyclers of used motor oil, we are part of the solution rather than the problem. The tide may be flowing in with regard to a more widespread acceptance of electric cars, and the future may see them in abundance someday, but for now the internal combustion engine remains the more cost efficient means of producing power. This is a sophisticated power source that needs lubrication. The oil sitting in the belly of the beast needs to be properly handled and disposed. It’s a skill lube shops can be really good at.
Several years ago, a Gallup survey revealed 94 percent of all consumers prefer to do business with companies who demonstrate they care about the environment. Almost 80 percent said they would pay more for environmentally friendly products. In other words, it would appear going green and promoting this commitment can be a profitable marketing strategy.
From an environmental point of view, quick lubes have public relations problems. We are part of the oil industry, which has a negative perception in many people’s minds. Oil and gas industries are perceived by 70 percent of all consumers as environmentally careless. Only the chemical industry has a worse rating, and it’s only by 1 percent.
For this reason, it is imperative to develop an environmental perspective and make a commitment in the direction of going green. Then, we need to find ways to let our local public know it — a matter that may be easier than you think.
There are really two ways to reduce pollution: recycling and source reduction. When it comes to recycling, synthetics are pretty much the same as petroleum. You can’t dump used synthetic motor oil in the ground any more than you can petroleum. Both classes of used motor oil must be taken to recycling centers for reprocessing.
Source reduction is an area where premium synthetics are demonstrating an advantage when combined with the longer drain intervals now being driven by the auto industry. Here’s another environmentally friendly feature offered by premium synthetics: Due to lower volatility, synthetics do not boil off or vaporize as much as petroleum motor oils do. However, the benefit may be marginal because of the nature of catalytic converters and other factors in the dispersion of these vapors.
Miscellaneous Action Items
Due to space considerations, I’ll close with a number of miscellaneous actions to consider.
1. Perform an enviro-audit. Examine every facet of your operation for ways to improve the environmental impact of your business on the environment. Find ways to recycle all the materials used in your facility. Develop a commitment to environmental stewardship that extends to every facet of the business, not just the recycling of used oil and filters.
2. Make signage that reads, “We Recycle 100 Percent of our Oil and Filters” or a sign that reads, “Bring Your Used Oil and Filters Here.” When customers bring their used oil and filters, ask, “Would you like a free 10-point check-up?”
3. Carry premium synthetic motor oil that provides a buffer for those motorists uncomfortable with the uncertainty that may accompany oil life monitors.
4. Encourage customers to fix their engine leaks. There are a number of toxic substances in used motor oil, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Dripping oil can eventually find its way into waterways.
5. Locate and join a local organization dedicated to sustainability. Member companies share ideas, and by participating, your shop will gain recognition and new customers.
Summing It Up
Government regulations and rising consumer awareness continue to drive environmental improvements in the auto industry. Quick lube operators don’t need to wait for a government intervention to perform earth-friendly car care.
While the environmental issue is not necessarily a hot button motivator for many Americans, there is a growing percentage of consumers who make it an eminent factor in their decision-making. Some are so environmentally aware they won’t use cars at all because they pollute. But most people own vehicles and will be sensitive to businesses that share their values. They may become your most loyal customers.