Increasing sustainability can have a wide range of benefits, from cutting costs to building a brand. Although there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, operators can take several small steps to go green. Stop Watch sat down with Mike Lawshe, founder of Paragon Solutions, to discuss ways truckstops and travel plazas can be more environmentally sustainable.
What Current Sustainability Trends Are You Seeing?
There hasn't been a big push for solar in the last ten years, but in the last six to nine months, there has been an increased emphasis on electric vehicles and also interest in solar power. For a long time, solar had to be government subsidized to make sense, but we’re getting to the point where it doesn’t have to be, and companies are having these conversations.
Overall, I’m seeing a resurgence of solar, in particular, where people are starting to talk about what they can do on the canopy or in other areas.
Are Led Lights Still a Way to Improve Sustainability?
Most businesses have already made a move to LED lights. The low-hanging fruit—the LED lights in the canopies or inside, have been taken care of. However, we are seeing people are more intentional and going back into properties and looking at different lighting levels within the store. Electronics and groceries would have different light levels. We’re also seeing things like lighting for shelving. Things that weren’t ever done become more reasonably priced and more durable.
Are Operators Concerned About Water Usage?
Water can be a regional or local issue. If you go to Austin, Texas, which is on an aquifer, water is very important. Some of our travel centers are on municipal water, where they have to think about what to do with wastewater. When creating site plans, the city will require a certain amount of retention where you must retain water for a certain amount of time. There are ways to use that water, and there are some simple things that can be done that are sustainable. There isn’t a home run where you can say, ‘I’m going to do this and be Mr. Sustainable,’ but there are a lot of little things that you can do that offer payback over time.
Are There Any Underutilized Solutions You See?
It fascinates me that more people don’t compact their trash or spend a little extra time to separate trash. You can compact, compost, recycle or send to the landfill, and it doesn’t take that much to do that. That is something that is not only the right thing but also could be communicated as a brand statement. I think there is a certain clientele that will appreciate that effort.
What is Driving Sustainability Initiatives Among Truckstops and Travel Plazas?
I think there are some operators pursuing sustainability because there is a brand benefit or an attaboy. Others will do it because it is the right thing to do. Those doing it for branding should look at the message they send. For example, they put an EV charger out front for everyone to see. Other locations create a recycling program or introduce features to minimize water usage. If you can communicate who you are and what you’re doing, it is a brand statement.
Is Refrigeration Becoming More Sustainable?
We see a shift away from open doors coolers. In some areas, grocery stores are mandated to go to closed doors or a screen that holds the temperature and is more efficient.
Are There Other Tools Operators Can Use To Increase Sustainability?
Locations could be more efficient by using energy management systems. Energy management systems will cycle certain things during certain hours. If you’re in a peak time, that isn’t when you want to be doing all of your ice production in the back room. You want to go in the middle of the night when it is off-peak. When you have a refrigeration system, whether for a cooler or HVAC, is the fan going from 0 to 60, or is it a low ramp where the fan comes on slowly or works up to the peak point, so you don’t have a surge? You're paying money off the peak and not where it ends up.
Are Automatic Doors Helpful?
There are times when vestibules and automatic doors make sense. When you have a single door in a windy area, it blows cold air in and out. If you have the vestibule, it does not so that it can stay more constant. Along these lines, locations should consider solar orientation in design or reducing the number of windows. I often say that windows don’t sell anything. You can look for triple-pane, gas-filled windows, which is an excellent way to save money, but how you orient your building can make a difference, so you avoid high beams of sunlight or cold northern winds.
Is LEED Certification Valuable?
When you look at LEED certification, it is all about creating more energy-efficient buildings. It is construction method, orientation and even some silly things like bike racks, but ultimately buildings are one of the biggest carbon footprints we have in this world. Making buildings zero carbon is a goal and a goal that isn’t impossible. You can look at LEED certification requirements to help determine solutions that work for your business.
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