Ten simple steps to becoming greener

It's amazing how many articles fill the trade press about "green" plumbing. Most plumbers are aware of the growing consumer awareness about the environmental impact of the choices they make in lifestyle and purchases. Yet, many are uncertain exactly what being "green" really means.

It's amazing how many articles fill the trade press about "green" plumbing. Most plumbers are aware of the growing consumer awareness about the environmental impact of the choices they make in lifestyle and purchases. Yet, many are uncertain exactly what being "green" really means.

Green practices can affect the products and services you sell, the way you operate your company, and the way you live your life. Few people, including the leaders of the green movement manage to uphold all three areas (it’s that lifestyle thing that trips up many of eco-leaders).

It's your call whether you can credibly claim to be a green company. Whether you believe you are green or not, you can offer green products and services. You can also begin adopting green practices in the operation of your company. This is smart business.

All else being equal, people usually select greener products when given a choice. Often, people will pay more for green products. Thus, greener offerings are more marketable and can be more profitable. Similarly, green business practices are often efficient business practices.

Without addressing lifestyle, here are 10 ways you can make your company more environmentally responsible:

1. Offer low-flow products: People with old toilets and unrestricted showerheads and faucets are wasting water and money daily. Offer them the choice of reducing water usage automatically, painlessly and unconsciously by replacing toilets, showerheads and adding faucet aerators. Make it a standard part of every service call to close by asking, “Mrs. Homeowner, I noticed that you have old toilets/showerheads/faucets that use a lot of water. Would you be interested learning about more efficient products that conserve water and save money?”

2. Tune-up HVAC: One of the simplest ways to reduce energy use is the simple air conditioning tune-up. Utility research has shown that this saves energy electricity over the summer to pay for the cost of the tune-up, not to mention breakdown prevention, capacity restoration and equipment life extension.

3. Offer rainwater collection systems: These systems collect rain running off the roof and store it in barrels for use in drip irrigation systems.

4. Reduce lighting expenses: Begin switching your building’s incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescents. Add motion sensor light switches to ensure the lights turn off in unoccupied rooms.

5. Offer bacteria and enzyme waste eliminators: These natural products, like Bio-Clean, are better on plumbing systems and the environment. Give your customers the option to buy these from you rather than a less sustainable product from the big box retailer.

6. Recycle: It’s easy to dump old water heaters and other material. Why not collect them and take them to a recycling center for cash? If the cash isn’t sufficient, see if a scrap metal dealer will pick them up.

7. Offer water filtration systems: People literally buy several hundred billion liters of bottled water each year. Each bottle must be disposed or recycled. It’s far better on the environment and a consumer’s wallet to filter their own water. Talk with your customers about how easy it is to install a water filtration system.

8. Increase the efficiency of your service fleet: Consider downsizing some vehicles when it’s time to replace them. Look into hybrids, flex fuel, CNG and bio-diesel options.

9. Offer waterless urinals to commercial customers: Waterless urinals save water (obviously), but also provide you with additional maintenance opportunities to replace cylinders if the building lacks a maintenance staff.

10. Install green plumbing products in your building: Your plumbers will sell green products with more conviction if you use them in your business. Moreover, you will conserve water, energy and money.

These 10 ideas are just a starter list. I didn't even mention tankless water heaters or solar water heaters. I didn't talk about the use of e-mail marketing instead of direct mail, reducing your service territory to concentrate your marketing efforts and reduce mileage, dispatching the first call from home, going paperless in your office, using truck GPS systems to map more efficient routes and so on.

What are your ideas for green products, services or practices? E-mail them to me at [email protected].

Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable, the industry’s largest contractor business alliance. Learn more at www.ServiceRoundtable.com. Contact Matt at the e-mail address above or call toll free at 877.262.3341. Follow Matt on Twitter @ComancheMktg, read his blog at www.ComancheMarketing.com, become a friend and fan of the Service Roundtable on Facebook and connect at LinkedIn.