'Going Green' to Save Green

How can car rental operators create a more environmentally friendly business for their staff and customers?

Several operators share tips that have helped their company “go green” — everything from reusing paper and renting electric vehicles to implementing a recycling program and using paperless contracts. In many cases, the initiatives also benefit the bottom line.

Eliminating the need to clean with disposable towels, Driving Force Vehicle Rentals, Sales, and Leasing provides employees with cloth rags for vehicle washing. Photo courtesy of Driving Force.
Eliminating the need to clean with disposable towels, Driving Force Vehicle Rentals, Sales, and Leasing provides employees with cloth rags for vehicle washing. Photo courtesy of Driving Force.

Recycle, Cut Waste

To help reduce its amount of waste, Driving Force Vehicle Rentals, Sales, and Leasing has implemented several initiatives at its 31 locations across Canada. Each cubicle and office contains a blue bin to recycle paper.

The company has also started faxing documents via email instead of using paper, according to Claudette Larocque, director of marketing and communications.

In addition to paper, Driving Force recycles its old print cartridges, company cell phones, computers, and monitors. Recently, the company recycled 133 cell phones and donated them to a local tree program and a children’s charity, according to Larocque. The company donates its old computers, monitors, and fax machines to a local eco station.

For the office’s kitchen, Driving Force provides washable mugs, dishes, and silverware to discourage employees from using paper products that produce more garbage. The company also uses water filters built into the taps to cut down on bottled water, says Larocque.

For vehicle washing, Driving Force provides employees with cloth rags, eliminating the need to clean with disposable towels.

Driving Force recycles tires, a significant impact for a fleet of more than 12,000 vehicles, says Larocque. It contracts with a Canadian recycler, which works with end users that can create playground equipment using the material from tires.

ACE Rent A Car in Tampa, Fla., reuses its rental jackets that hold customer rental agreements. When customers return the vehicle, they often leave the rental jackets in the car or hand them back.

“My detail guys know to always check the glove box for the rental jackets,” says Lisa Cisler, manager of Tampa’s ACE Rent A Car. “We put them back at the counter and reuse them as long as they don’t have writing or any stains on them.”

Go Paperless

With all the documents needed in the car rental process, the amount of paper can pile up. As mobile devices become more popular, the idea of electronic — or paperless — contracts has gained momentum.

Steve Vahidi, president of MPG Car Rental in Los Angeles, is working toward a completely paperless rental process by using mobile applications. Through TSD’s rental software, MPG can have a customer sign the rental contract on a mobile device using e-signature technology and then receive a copy of the contract via email, according to Vahidi.

Additionally, MPG Car Rental will soon move away from paper vehicle inspections to documenting damage electronically through the Record360 app, which takes still photos and video when performing a vehicle walk-around.

Avis Alaska has reduced its paper usage by emailing — rather than mailing — a copy of claim paperwork and notices. “This has eliminated the use of over 30,000 sheets of paper,” says Peggy Grigsby, vice president at Alaska Rent-A-Car, an Avis franchise.

For when using paper is unavoidable, Vahidi makes sure to use recycled paper and recycled envelopes. “We get custom-made paper and envelopes,” he says. “We have a local print shop where I can personally pick out the recycled paper and material.”

Reduce Utility Bills

How can a company reduce its electricity, water usage, and other building utilities?

Vahidi has switched all of the office light bulbs to LED lighting. In addition, he encourages his staff to turn out the lights on sunny days.

Driving Force is in the process of installing motion control sensors on its buildings to further its initiative to use less electricity, says Larocque. To reduce water usage, the company has installed low-flow water fixtures in its bathrooms, kitchens, and vehicle detail areas.

To use less air conditioning, Youssef Aziz painted his rental company’s warehouse white, which keeps the warehouse cooler in the summer. “It doesn’t require the air conditioner to be running full throttle,” says Aziz, owner of Auto Boutique, a luxury rental company in Miami.

Reuse Motor Oil

To convert its motor oil to heat, the Payless franchise near Philadelphia Airport purchased this multi-fuel heater. Photo courtesy of Payless Philadelphia.
To convert its motor oil to heat, the Payless franchise near Philadelphia Airport purchased this multi-fuel heater. Photo courtesy of Payless Philadelphia.

For James Easley, it was important to include green features when moving one of his Payless franchise locations into a new facility. Rather than removing used motor oil, the office near Philadelphia International Airport implemented an initiative to reuse waste oil to heat the facility. The system stores the excess oil in a tank and then it can be used in a heater for the building.

To convert its used oil to heat, Payless purchased a Clean Burn multi-fuel heater (CB-2500) from Craft Oil Corp. “We do our own oil changes and then place the oil from every oil change in a 1,000-gallon holding tank,” says Easley. “Then that oil is pumped to the heater.”

The CB-2500 furnace can burn both standard fuel oil and used waste oils, says Clean Burn.

Rent Eco-Friendly Vehicles

Known for its all-green fleet, MPG promotes renting eco-friendly vehicles, especially its all-electric vehicles.

“We try to educate our customers on renting electric vehicles while they are at our office,” says Vahidi. “Most people love the idea once they get a little knowledge on how electric vehicles work. We have had customers come in looking to rent a Prius, but once we educate them on all-electric vehicles, they are willing to give an electric vehicle a shot and usually ended up loving it.”

Incentives for renting all-electric models include free charging stations and free parking at several local parking structures and hotels as well as the ability to use the carpool lane while driving on freeways in California, according to Vahidi. Additionally, MPG doesn’t charge its customers to recharge the vehicle.

MPG offers several all-electric vehicles, including the new Tesla Model S plug-in, the Chevy Volt plug-in, the Nissan Leaf, and the BMW i3. “We just got the new Tesla Model X to add to that electric vehicle list,” adds Vahidi.

MPG also has a variety of hybrids to rent, such as the Toyota Prius, Lexus RX 450, Honda Insight, and Chevy Tahoe.

Driving Force continues to increase its offering of fuel-efficient vehicles. Currently, it has diesel, hybrid, and flex-fuel vehicles in its fleet.

“We have used the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and Lexus 400h in the fleet in the past and present,” says Larocque. “We are adding more hybrids as the demand increases among customers.”

Save Energy With Solar Panels

Bluebird Auto Rental Systems installed solar panels on the roof of its office. Photo courtesy of Bluebird Auto Rental Systems.
Bluebird Auto Rental Systems installed solar panels on the roof of its office. Photo courtesy of Bluebird Auto Rental Systems.

Angela Margolit, president of Bluebird Auto Rental Systems, decided to install solar panels at her company’s office in 2009. 

At the time, New Jersey offered a rebate for solar panels and the federal government was giving a tax credit grant of 30%, says Margolit.

“We have a lot of servers so our electric bill was going up around $100 per month,” says Margolit. “It started at $2,000 and was approaching $3,200 when I decided to try solar panels.”

With the panels, Bluebird now produces 20% of its electric needs on its own. Additionally, a company can sell back any energy that it produces and isn’t able to use. The solar renewable energy certificate can be traded or sold, according to Margolit.

Margolit says saving 20% on the monthly energy bill equates to $700 per month or $8,400 per year. “We were able to pay off the price for the solar panels within seven years,” she says.

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