When Adam Arens opened Patriot Subaru in Saco, Maine in November 2003, he was squeezed between a Subaru dealer up the road in Portland and another just to the south in Portsmouth, NH. The new store was built on a stretch of road populated with other dealerships, all with multiple brands. Projected sales by Subaru corporate were for 30 cars a month. "Patriot Subaru would open just in time for winter as a stand-alone Subaru store," Arens states. Keenly, Patriot made a firm commitment from day one to protect the environment by reducing waste, recycling resources, and reducing energy consumption. It was all part of the plan.
Now in its 6th year, Patriot Subaru is Maine's leading Subaru store, outselling all other dealers in auto sales, part sales, and service. Patriot ranks in the top 20 Subaru dealers in the United States and is number one in terms of the size of the metropolitan area to sales. Patriot Subaru also has emerged as a prominent and active member of the community, donating more than $50,000 per year to local charitable organizations and donating hundred of hours of time through employees who participate in cause events.
Patriot Subaru's environmental commitment was demonstrated in the building that was designed and built to be efficient. Efficient ENERGY STAR qualified appliances are found throughout the dealership. "We identified over 90 ENERGY STAR qualified appliances," Arens says. "That includes 35 computers and monitors, printers, televisions, a refrigerator, and a microwave."
Energy-saving measures include propane-based heating to minimize oil consumption, skylights to take advantage of day-lighting in showroom, office and service areas, motion controlled lighting, automatic shut off appliances, no heat or air use in the basement, and multiple ceiling fans. "Our program ranges from the simple 'when not in use turn it off philosophy' to our largest undertaking, which is converting outside lighting to light emitting diode (LED) lighting." The dealership received a grant from Efficiency Maine to cover 25 percent of the conversion cost.
Environmental operations extend beyond energy efficiency with use of natural live plants throughout the dealership, xeriscaping to eliminate irrigation or watering in the landscape, use of chemical free pesticides, and use of organic cleaning compounds. There is a recycling and zero-landfill philosophy: the dealership recycles 100 percent of automotive oil, places recycling containers throughout the dealership, and returns usable wrapping to shippers. There is no outside paging to avoid noise pollution and no promotional balloons so nothing can escape into the atmosphere.
"We decided to plant an organic vegetable garden on the property," Arens notes. "Many of our employees enjoy relaxing by tending the garden, and we discovered some customers prefer to help out by pulling weeds rather than watch Judge Judy in the waiting room."
According to Arens, Patriot Subaru began by studying the U.S. Environment Protection Agency's (EPA) 'ENERGY STAR Guidelines for Energy Management.' "First and foremost was the commitment," Arens states. "Call it good business, call it common sense, but Patriot worked from day one to be a green dealership. We had the advantage of a new building designed to be smart so we haven't had expensive remodels and retrofits. But, since we had no past history, we didn't implement an extensive evaluation process to compare past to present."
Patriot Subaru has learned from the ENERGY STAR website, and knows the ENERGY STAR name has high recognition with consumers. Arens remarked that the ENERGY STAR Change-A-Light campaign was the inspiration for examining the lighting conversion.
Patriot is committed to strive for improvement. In early 2010 they began working with McMillian Doolittle, a Chicago-based retail-consulting firm that specializes in developing a company's green strategy. The new comprehensive green strategy that has developed is built on four cornerstones:
"We realized we weren't selling green as well as we could," Arens says. "So we have a set of new marketing tactics that inform and illuminate our goals, strategies, and programs to the public. We realize that by doing this, we are setting an example for other businesses, as well as raising the bar for ourselves."
The firm's traditional red, white, and blue "eagle" logo was reformatted by adding green and the three arrows of the recycling symbol. Patriot's traditional tagline "Now You're Thinking" was updated to "Now You're Thinking...Green!" The logo and tagline are now included in all outgoing visual media sources, from direct mail, e-mails to customers, Facebook page and the street message board. The tag line and supportive messaging has been added to the on-going radio campaign and the telephone "on-hold" message.
The Patriotsubaru.com home page uses a tab in its top menu navigation bar to take visitors to a green page which details the dealership's activities, links to the ENERGY STAR website, and provides 10 tips to businesses for energy-efficiency and sustainability.
Patriot Subaru maintains its energy efficiency program with weekly meetings of department heads to report, refine, and study new options. According to Arens, the sales department reports that customers are aware of the dealership's commitment and it is appreciated. "It's hard to quantify if x number of cars were sold on the basis of our green dealership," Arens says, "but we absolutely feel that the position resonates with our customer base. We want to be a leader in the community, a leading car dealer in the state and a leading Subaru dealership in the nation. At the core of it all, and we say it at every meeting, we do these things because it is the right thing to do."
Patriot Subaru estimates that they are saving more than $13,000 annually in energy costs for the operation of their auto dealership. They saved nearly 4,000 kWh of electricity and 62 gallons of propane per year, representing nearly a 6,000 pound reduction in CO2 emissions.