21670 Red Rum Drive, Suite 149 | Ashburn, VA 20147 (behind building 21660)
Call Today: 571-291-9401

It’s Not Easy Being Green

An image of a green 1955 Chevrolet Belair with signs of rust and decay and the words, "It's not easy being green".

No, it’s not easy being green. In fact, it would be much easier to not be green. Yet, here at AQS we realize that we are part of a bigger picture. One in which we are more than just a detailing and reconditioning shop. We are a voice for doing things right. We have a responsibility to show that an industry that traditionally uses harmful chemicals and practices can produce top quality results and be minimally invasive to the environment. We realize that we are all in the same boat and we are doing our best adopt and innovate green practices in an effort to hopefully make a difference for all of us in the long run.

Water Recycling

Large car washes are required to recycle the water that is used in their systems. This type of water recycling system, if not maintained properly can almost leave your car dirtier than before you went into the car wash. And don’t get us started on car washes with brush and cloth scrubbers – dirty water and an a cloth brush is a recipe for disaster when it comes to your painted finish. As a small shop, AQS was not required to implement a water recycling system. However, we decided that when designing our shop, we would stick to our green policies and install a water recycling system. Truthfully, we were a little unsure that we would be able to provide a top quality detail wash with recycled water. Our system allows us to run completely closed loop – that is, we can recycle 100% of our water. When running a closed loop system, we only need to add fresh water when we need to replenish water lost to evaporation. Yet, recycling 100% of the water doesn’t leave us with the cleanest water for detailing. In order to maintain our high quality standards we need to perform part of our auto detail wash with fresh water. So, we realistically recycle 80% of our water – which we feel is an acceptable balance between maintaining green standards and providing a top quality automotive detail.

Water Based Paint

Traditionally, automotive paint is solvent based. It is formulated from a petroleum base that has a high vapor pressure at room temperature – meaning, the liquid base evaporates quickly at room temperature to leave behind the solid paint coating. This petroleum base is known as a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC). High concentrations of certain organic chemicals have been shown to have compounding, long-term health effects. In fact, a number of states around the country have enacted regulations aimed at reducing VOC emissions. AQS is small enough to not be affected by these regulations – but we’ve decided to push ahead of the curve and use less toxic, water-based finishes in our paint shop. Water based primers, base coats, tints, and clear coats are all low VOC yet perform just as well, if not better, than traditional solvent based products. These newer paints use significantly less solvent and use more pigment which allows us to spray less paint and get the same coverage, color, and protection. Water based paints also offer the advantage of being easy to clean. Traditional solvent based paints require additional solvents (paint thinner) to clean equipment. This results in a large volume of waste solvent. Water based paints clean easily with water – reducing our need for large volumes of cleaning solvent and reducing our waste disposal expenses. Water based paint also offers a significant weight reduction over traditional solvent based paint. In fact, most race cars today are painted with water based paint to take advantage of this weight reduction – when mere ounces matter!

Limiting Bake Cycles

One of the advantages of using a solvent based paint or clear coat is the fast cure time. Solvents evaporate faster than water and thus dry in less time. Faster cure times translate into faster turn-around times – allowing for shops to handle more work in less time. In order to make up this time advantage, water based paints and clear coats are traditionally baked at high temperatures. The higher air temperatures allow water to evaporate quickly, decreasing the finish time. However, it takes a great deal of energy to heat a paint booth up to the 160+ degrees needed for a proper finish cure. Here at AQS we’ve partnered with top quality automotive finish supplier Sherwin-Williams to pioneer the use of a revolutionary line of water based finishes that cure at ambient temperatures. This significantly reduces the energy requirements by eliminating the need for high temperature bake cycles to achieve fast cure times. It is now possible to meet today’s quick turn-around time and reduce the use of precious fossil fuels.

Lean Stock

Everyone has heard of the “green trifecta”, that is, Reduce, Re-Use, and Recycle. Re-Use and Recycle are fairly easy to maintain in the automotive detailing and auto-body worlds. However, the third, Reduce is a bit of a challenge. Here at AQS we are reducing our use by limiting our inventory of supplies and adopting lean practices. Lean is a method and mindset for reducing waste in processes. Lean is not only a reduction in onhand product, but also a reduction in time required to perform an action. By keeping a clean, organized, and well maintained shop, we are able to increase efficiency and throughput while reducing waste and delay. We continually monitor our processes to increase efficiency and get as much work out of every bit of energy that we can.

Solid Waste Recycling

Here at AQS we are fortunate to be in a county that offers single stream recycling. Plastics, paper, cardboard, glass, and certain metals can all be recycled in the same bins. We do our best to recycle or re-use as much as we can. In fact, we’ve gone so far as to build work benches from old wooden pallets that were originally used to deliver equipment to our shop!

Digital Marketing

Marketing is an essential part of any business. Name recognition is a key part of any marketing strategy – which is why large corporations spend so much money to put their logo on anything and everything. This effort to establish name recognition can also be somewhat wasteful – when is the last time you really made a purchase based on a piece of unsolicited junk mail? We don’t like junk mail either, so we’ve elected to use as much digital marketing as possible. Spam you say? No, we don’t like spam either. So, we’ve adopted a customer friendly digital policy and only communicate digitally with customers who request to receive digital material from us.

Biodegradable Giveaway Bags

Occasionally, we do put our name on marketing items in an effort to gain name recognition. When we do, we make a conscious effort to minimize the environmental impact of our marketing. For example, from time to time we offer detailing seminars to local car enthusiast clubs and give each attendee a bag containing information on home detailing products. Here, we chose to use biodegradable bags printed with soy based inks. If any of our bags find their way out into the environment, they will biodegrade within three months of exposure to the natural elements!

Heat Sensing Light Switches

Office and work environments are traditionally wasteful by nature as they are usually designed for productivity and without environmental consideration. We’ve done our best here at AQS to consciously add green technology into our office in an effort to decrease our carbon footprint. We’ve chosen EnergyStar compliant appliances where available and outfitted each lighted area with thermal sensors. These sensors automatically turn off overhead lights when a room or area is empty – helping us decrease the amount of wasted electricity.

It’s not easy being green. It takes a lot of effort. Especially for a small business starting out in an industry that is traditionally full of waste and pollution. Here at AQS we see that we can make green decisions that benefit our bottom line and allow us to pass savings on to our customers. We’re doing our best to do our part as we realize that we are all in this together.

Stop in and see our shop and we’ll be happy to share with you how we do things green!

Image credit: “Man and his car” by “thematthewknot“, used under CC BY | text and AQS logo added.

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21670 Red Rum Drive, Suite 149
Ashburn, VA 20147
Phone: 571-291-9401
Fax: 703-858-3487

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