We have been GREEN for decades!!!

I receive a release from the Green Parking Council about their new program to ‘certify’ garages as ‘green.’ LEED has blown parking off, so, as one consultant I spoke to told me, now we can certify ourselves. I reviewed the list of garages and the reasons they were certified and I discovered that most were ‘green’ because they used good common sense, took the market into consideration, and placed those features into their garages that would help them sell their product. Remember, most of these locations were built back when ‘green’ was just a color.

A university garage got credit because it had bicycle parking, a garage next to a large office building got credit because it had preferential parking for car poolers, a shopping center got credit because it installed guidance systems.  Automatic Pay Stations were a big ‘green’ feature, and of course, putting in lighting that reduced electricity usage was a big winner.

Bicycles at a university, who would have thunk it. Office buildings promoting car pooling, egads. Parking Guidance at shopping centers — boggles the mind. Pay on Foot equipment, probably not a thought to reduced personnel costs and of course — who would install low cost lighting except to save the planet.

In these and other cases, good business related cases could and were made for their installation. After the fact, someone said — “wow, that parking guidance not only attracted people to our shopping center but it also got them parked quicker and cut down on pollution.”

A friend of mine went to the show in Pittsburgh specifically to find charging stations. I asked him how many folks coming to his shopping center drove e vehicles. He said none, but he wanted to be able to ‘appear green.’

The Green Parking Council receives support from auto companies, developers, companies that manufacture and install charging stations, utilities, and of course parking operators. And rightly so. The parking industry reasonably wants to get ahead of the pack and head off bad PR while attracting customers. If you have a charging station in your garage, people who need it will park there, and others will fell warm and cuddly about your company.

As my consultant friend said, if calling something we do routinely ‘green’ and that gets us credibility, then great.  We will be ‘green.’

To me it all seems a bit silly. Companies are ‘green’ because its good business, it saves money and makes a better product. So why not? The silly part comes in when a manufacturer of parking equipment paints his equipment ‘green’ and then sells it as a ‘green’ product. Do people really fall for that?

If I were doing an advertising campaign and wanted to promote positive parking ideals, why not something like “We have been GREEN for decades” and then promote the sustainable activities and designs that parking facilities have had for years. My guess is that most garages built in the past 30 years have features that would be considered ‘green.’

The parking industry was using common sense, making good business decisions, and building sustainable garages before anyone ever thought about saving the planet. What this all means, I think, is that saving the planet is good business.  Many of the things we do as a matter of course are environmentally sound. We just need to promote it in a different way.

This approach by the NPA, other organizations,  and the Green Parking Council will bring a lot of good PR to parking. Keep it up.

By the way — the latest climate change scandal, Climategate 2.0 where 5000 emails were released that show scientists have been cooking the books and that the Global Warming and Climate Change saga may be greatly overplayed, will tend to slow the entire environmental movement.  Many proponents have reached almost a religious intensity and are losing sight of reality. This may cause a ‘green’ backlash and we, as an industry, need to keep that in mind as we jump on bandwagon after bandwagon. ‘Green’ for ‘green’s’ sake will begin to look silly. As we have done in the past, we need to have good business reasons to make these ‘green’ decisions.

JVH

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3 Responses to We have been GREEN for decades!!!

  1. Paul Wessel says:

    Good points, JVH. The question for the industry, for our customers, for planners, for local governments, and for property owners is “Can we do more – and how can we do this better?

    Green Parking Council recently recognized sites and operators who have been taking the right steps.

    Right now, certification criteria are being developed as a means of judging how well we are doing this. They are being developed by parking insiders as well as by sustainability experts from outside the industry. Look for these in mid 2012.

    There are amazing innovators inside and outside the parking industry developing the next generation of sustainable – that is energy efficient, productive & profitable – technologies. The Green Parking Council is looking to encourage and celebrate those next steps.

    Stay tuned for more.

  2. JVH says:

    Paul: Bravo — however it still has to be good business. Sustainability for its own sake is laudable, but if its not cost effective, it will drag us down. Can anyone say Solyndra…JVH

  3. Paul Wessel says:

    No question. It needs to make good business sense. But the market’s a fickle thing. Customer demand may drive certain changes: Tenants are already asking for charging for the Chevy Volts they are about to buy (true story.) Building owners may start to ask how the parking operation is reducing the garage’s carbon footprint; BOMA is thinking about these kind of things.

    And then there’s that pesky government. So the feds say they’re going to require more efficient light bulbs for everyone selling the marketplace: Like requiring all the supermarkets to recycle soda bottles, they ratchet up – for everyone – what a light bulb should do. Then Congress back tracks on the mandate. But rather than breathe a sigh of relief, the industry hollers back, saying, “Wait. It’s right. You told us we had to do it. We’re geared up. Don’t go backwards.”

    Solyndra was an attempt to hit a home run. There’s lots of singles and doubles being hit out there moving things forward. Don’t forget about those.

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