In an industry that is not often thought of as environmentally friendly, the owners of Safari Ltd. lead by example. During the past 10 years, Hugh and Kelly Phillips have endeavored to create an environmentally responsible and sustainable automotive repair shop in Grand Junction, CO.
“We are determined to demonstrate that ‘going green’ at a grass roots level not only benefits our bottom line, but, more importantly, benefits our customers as well as our community,” Kelly says.
When they outgrew their initial location, Hugh and Kelly searched to find a property that they could adapt to their vision of sustainability, which included creating an indoor environment that was beneficial for staff and customers alike. Even though the building that currently houses the 4.5-bay shop, parts department and fully-stocked off-road showroom was built in 1960, the couple was able to refurbish it at a reduced cost by recycling and reusing materials when possible.
“More than wanting to jump on the ‘green’ band-wagon, we wanted to create a healthy indoor environment,” Hugh says. “This is where we could make a real difference — in our own shop. It’s great to see our customers comfortable, working or relaxing while they are waiting for their vehicle to be serviced.”
Renovation & Recycling Efforts
The couple started their renovation efforts by having solar power installed in the building, which runs off of 48 215-watt electric panels that provide for a 9.89 kW, grid-tied photovoltaic system. The system produces about 15,050 kW per year, which saves more than 33,200 pounds of CO2 from going into the atmosphere annually. That’s the same amount of CO2 produced by driving 12 midsize cars 8,500 miles per year!
Hugh says lighting was another important consideration, not only for comfort and productivity, but for energy efficiency as well. The design of Easylite Integrated Lighting System (ILS) in Boulder, CO, patented system consists of integrated dimmable electronic fluorescent ballasts that provide the power to the system controls. The lighting system’s flexible design provides energy savings both in ongoing operating costs, as well as the initial design and installation.
“This customized lighting system is controlled with a low-voltage ‘plug & play’ system that’s tied to occupancy sensors and daylight harvesters,” Hugh explains. “This will eventually have an energy management system that will tie directly to the solar system, with the ability to shed peak demand lighting loads. This system will have the capability of being controlled and monitored from the office computer.”
The couple’s sustainability efforts didn’t stop there. The shop’s showroom floor is made from 100% post-consumer rubber tires salvaged from America’s landfills and features mixed-in color made from 30% pre-consumer waste. The two are then bound with a water-based polymer to create environmentally savvy commercial flooring.
“Even the adhesive (E-Grip III) is a zero-VOC (Volatile organic compounds) with a very low odor,” Kelly says. “The ceiling tiles are also zero-VOC as well as formaldehyde-free, and made of 71% post-consumer recycled material. The ceiling tiles also provide a good percentage of light reflection, as well as good noise reduction.”
Employing four ASE-certified technicians, Safari Ltd. services, repairs and houses a full parts department for all Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles. The shop also specializes in off-road outfitting and carries a complete inventory of overland adventure travel equipment, including recovery gear, solar power options, dual battery monitoring systems and car camping equipment.
In an effort to better handle the waste generated by their operation, Hugh and Kelly implemented active recycling programs. Waste management recycling reduces large dumpsters filled with trash to smaller bins for items such as cardboard, tin, steel, aluminum and plastic, which, in turn, reduces the waste sent to landfills. Industrial waste, such as oil, antifreeze and A/C refrigerant, is recycled through a compliant, closed-loop company, and scrap metal is also locally recycled just down the street.
“Our passive recycling program has been in place since the beginning,” Hugh says. “This involves reusing good quality used parts. The shop combines expertise and experience to repair older vehicles and keep them running properly, so they are not a detriment to the environment. Safari Ltd. can improve older vehicles’ performance, thereby reducing emissions and extending the service life of the vehicle.”
Customer Retention And Profitability
While Safari Ltd. has successfully relied on word-of-mouth advertising to build its customer base over the past 10 years, it also produces all of its ad materials in-house, from photography to ad layout. But beyond advertising, Hugh and Kelly strive to provide the best possible customer service in the industry.
“We treat our customers with honesty and respect,” Kelly says. “Safari Ltd. has always been proud of our passion to serve our customers with the highest dollar value in the automotive repair and adventure travel market. We achieved this through our expertise and experience with Toyota vehicles, and our relentless consultations ensuring customers achieve their vehicle goals.
“We also recognize that our customers all use their vehicles differently,” she continues, “from being put to the daily test in the oil field to outfitting guides up in the hills to daily drivers around town to recreationalists and overland travelers. We strive to enhance Toyota’s reliability, not detract from it.”
Hugh says adding Bolt-On technology in 2014 to the shop’s existing Mitchell1 software has helped improve shop productivity. Now each employee, including parts staff and the service desk, has their own tablet, which enhances communication.
“From a check-in tablet, customers can sign the repair order authorizing work, and the VIN can be scanned and decoded and photos of the vehicle are captured,” Hugh says. “Inspections are also sent electronically to the customers so they have a record of them. And photos can be taken and sent directly to the customer if we find an issue.”
In uncertain economic times, Safari Ltd. has taken an active approach to sustainable business practices, while boosting their bottom line with creative energy sources and waste management. Merging an auto service center with sustainable business practices not only feels good, but also is economically viable.